Monday, February 23, 2015

IDPs in Kachin enjoy safe drinking water and sanitation facilities

©UNICEF Myanmar/2015/Ye Lwin
 By Ye Lwin
Waing Maw Township, Kachin State, Myanmar, January 2015: Twenty year-old Yan Wai has long waited for this moment. “Almost three years ago, when I first arrived at the camp, there was no toilet, no water supply and no proper accommodation for us”, Yan Wai said. “We were living from hand to mouth”.  

 This mother of a nine-month old baby is no longer concerned about safe and clean water since toilets and water tanks were constructed with UNICEF support in Thagara IDPs camp. 
Thagara camp is located in Waing Maw Township, 20 minutes-drive from Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, where armed conflict between government troops and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) erupted in 2012. Due to intense armed conflict, local villagers in the region fled to escape the war.
Yan Wai is one of those internally displaced persons. Her native village is 60 miles away. “When fighting between government troops and KIA started to escalate in my village, I had no option but to run away.”
This was at the beginning of 2012, when the camp didn’t have more than 15 families from different ethnic groups. But continuous armed conflict increased the number of families to almost 100. About 40 percent of these are children under 12 years old.
Since June 2014, UNICEF has implemented WASH projects in IDPs camps from Kachin State in collaboration with Shalom (Nyein) Foundation, a local NGO.

“We are really grateful. The latrines and the water storage tank are a great change to all of us, and it will greatly reduce the spread of diseases”, said Thein Soe, Thagara camp leader. “UNICEF has been a great supporter. In the past, it already provided hygiene and family kits. We are now making sure that we properly use and maintain the water supply facilities and latrines”.
Under this partnership with UNICEF, Shalom (Nyein) Foundation implemented WASH activities in all targeted IDPs camps providing water and sanitation infrastructures, building latrines, wells, bathing places, water storage tanks and overhead tanks, as well as organising hygiene promotion campaigns.
 “We implemented WASH activities in 30 IDPs camps in three townships - Myitkyina, Waing Maw and Hpakant- in Kachin State depending on the needs and assessments in these areas,” explained Khun Myat, WASH Coordinator from Shalom (Nyein) Foundation.
The project reaches almost 6,000 IDPs from camps under government controlledareas, improving their access to safe and sustainable water resources and to sanitary latrines, hand washing stations and bathing places.
Although the conditions have improved, living in a camp has become a very long period of time. “We are not happy, we don’t want to live in camps throughout our life”, said Yan Wai. “We dream about going back home and resuming our normal life farming the fields. But it all depends on a ceasefire agreement between the government and KIA,” concludes the young mother with emotion in her eyes.