Church helps hungry Karen villagers
Continuing fighting in eastern region leaves many displaced, short of food
An elderly women ties white thread to young girls in the Kayin traditional celebration in the Holy Family
Cathedral compound, Mawlamyine
ucanews.com reporter, Yangon
May 16, 2011
Karuna Hpa-an Social Service (KHSS) has stepped up its supply of rice to Karen people in 12 villages facing a food shortage due to ongoing fighting in the east of the country.
The effects of a recent drought have been worsened by army attacks on villages, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said, with tens of thousands of civilians in hiding and in urgent need of assistance.
KHSS has been helping during the conflict via local home missioners (lay evangelizers) according to local church sources.
It took at least two days to reach the affected villages on foot from Hpa-pun. So the helpers could take only food and were unable to take much aid, said the local source.
In a statement, CSW called on the international community to provide aid to those affected by the food crisis and to increase funding for refugee camps on the Thai border.
CSW added that, according to the Karen Human Rights Group, nearly 9.000 people in 118 villages in northern Karen state are facing acute food shortages.
There are still many villages that the church cannot reach, according to local sources. The situation has been getting worse since March and there is intermittent fighting throughout the area. Villagers are afraid and unable work, so they have no food supply.
Local sources reported that people are not allowed to take anything in or out of Hpa-pun, while no NGOs are allowed in Hpa-pun to distribute humanitarian aid.
Karuna's director said the food shortages this year are worse than at any time since the organisation started helping the villagers three years ago.
Apart from food, Karuna is also providing blankets and distributing medicine for minor ailments to the villagers.