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Churches help refugees fleeing fighting

Kachin Independence Army unrest continues, local people flee to urban aeras reporters, Mandalay and Yangon

August 31, 2011

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Catholic and Baptist Churches are leading the way in supporting internal refugees as more rural people make their way to cities, a bishop said yesterday. Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam of Banmaw Diocese said: “These increasing numbers of internally dispaced people (IDPs) are taking refuge mostly in Catholic and Baptist Church compounds and we are getting more and more contributions from local authorities and people. Some 2,200 people are being cared for by the Church's welfare staff. Bishop Sumlut said: “We need to address funding for shelter for increasing numbers of IDPs, food, medicine, education, pastoral care and spiritual assistance.” There are now an estimated 14,470 (7,930 female and 6,540 male) IDPs in Banmaw Diocese according to the most recent statistics, dated August 10. The bishop said the Church's efforts were being financially supported by the Metta Foundation, the only aid organisation legally recognised and allowed by the government. A Baptist Church leader in Yangon who declined to be named said about 3,000 IDPs are taking shelter in the 14 Baptist Churches in Myitkyina, Waimaw and Banmaw areas. “We support them with basic food items such as rice, oil, salt and beans. We have received non-food items from other local donors and our Christian Churches provide food with the help of overseas and local benefactors,” he said. Health workers from Kachin Baptist churches are helping with healthcare of the IDPs in the camps. Some refugees have faced stomach problems and fever but these have been minor, the Baptist leader said. We continue to worry about the present and future situation in the region while at the same time finding means and ways to respond to the urgent needs of the present time. The Kachin Independence Army has been fighting against government troops since June 9 and the area is still tense although both sides have met for negotiations, according to local sources in Kachin State.
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