More aid needed for those displaced by fighting in Kachin State

Head of Caritas in Myanmar asks international community for help
More aid needed for those displaced by fighting in Kachin State

An ethnic Kachin women with her two children at a Baptist Church-run internally displaced people camp in Ja Mai Kaung, on the outskirts of Myitkyina, the capital city of Kachin State in April. (ucanews.com photo)

The situation of people displaced by fighting in Myanmar's Kachin State is worsening and more humanitarian assistance from the international community is needed, says a leading church official.

Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam of Banmaw who is based in Kachin State told ucanews.com that the number of people fleeing fighting between the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar military is increasing.

"With renewed clashes, thousands of people have fled their homes. The situation in Kachin appears to be worsening," said Bishop Gam referring to a fresh round of fighting near the gold and amber mining areas around Tanai township, some 200 kilometers north of Myitkyina, the state capital.

"The church needs help from the international community as the displaced people can't go back to their homes," said Bishop Gam who is ethnic Kachin.

"Sporadic fighting continues and peace remains elusive," he said.

More than 900 Kachin civilians have taken refuge at Christian churches in Tanai and thousands of migrant workers in the area have returned to their homes.

After six years of fighting in the state, they are facing funding shortfalls that affect operations to look after people sheltered in camps for internally displaced people, the bishop said.

Bishop Gam also said that the military is hampering NGO efforts to help the 100,000 people in local camps for the internally displaced.

"Since a year ago, we have faced more restrictions and there have been aid blockades by the military even in government-controlled areas," said Bishop Gam who is chairman of the Karuna (Caritas) Myanmar.

Many displaced people living in the camps are suffering increased psychological strain, he said.

"People have been in the camps since 2011 and they are losing patience and quarreling with one another. We have this kind of issue with psychological problems increasing in recent years," said Bishop Gam.

Civil war has plagued the mountainous northern state on and off since Myanmar gained independence from Britain in 1948.

Most of the state's 1.7 million Kachins are Christians, among them 116,000 are Catholics.

The government of Aung San Suu Kyi has pledged to bring an end to the decades-long civil wars in the country but renewed clashes have undermined her peace initiatives. Ongoing fighting has also raised questions on how much influence Suu Kyi has over the military.

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