Monday, September 25, 2017

Seven NGOs unite on aid for displaced Kachin

Seven local NGOs have drafted a joint strategy aimed at protecting those affected by ongoing armed conflict in Kachin and northern Shan states.

Children displaced by the conflict in Kachin State line up for their dinner ration at Pakahtawng camp near Mai Ja Yang in Kachin State on January 21. (Kaung Htet/The Myanmar Times)Children displaced by the conflict in Kachin State line up for their dinner ration at Pakahtawng camp near Mai Ja Yang in Kachin State on January 21. (Kaung Htet/The Myanmar Times)

The strategy, which runs from 2013 to 2015, seeks to protect the rights, needs, dignity and safety of internally displaced people, said Daw Mary Tawn of Wunpawng Ninghtoi, one of the NGOs involved in drafting the plan.

Despite a lull in fighting between the Tatmadaw and Kachin Independence Army in recent months, about 80,000 people are living in 139 camps for displaced people.

“The strategy aims to ensure efficient and quality humanitarian responses that address the most urgent needs of people in conflict areas,” she said at a press conference last week.

She added that those in the affected areas face “many challenges” in spite of the best efforts of NGOs, especially as larger international organisations and United Nations agencies have so far had only limited access to affected areas.

The joint strategy is an attempt by the seven aid organisations to maximise the impact of their efforts by adopting a common understanding of how the humanitarian response should be designed, strategised, targeted and managed, Daw Mary Tawn said.

All aid will be delivered with a strong commitment to international humanitarian principles and the joint strategy will help reduce gaps and overlaps between the efforts of different aid groups. It will also work to minimise donor-driven policy and maximise the use of international cooperation opportunities.

The Kachin Baptist Convention, Kachin Relief and Development Committee, Karuna Myanmar Social Services, Metta Development Foundation, Shalom Foundation and Bridging Rural Integrated Development and Grassroots Empowerment were also involved in drafting the strategy.

The steering committee will release a report every six months that will be used proactively to feed the communication and advocacy agenda, the networking policy and fundraising strategy.

But with local NGOs having only limited access to funding, the organisations expressed concern that they might struggle to sustain the project for its intended duration.

U Gun Mai, from the Shalom Foundation, said the three-year budget requirement is estimated at about US$70 million, but they have so far received only $13 million. Most of the funds will be used before September, he said, and commitments for next year’s projects are uncertain.

“Fundraising is one of the important factors for a humanitarian response. There are still many gaps,” he said.

The executive director of the Metta Development Foundation, U Sai San Kham, said the organisations welcome internal or external experts who can help meet needs in under-resourced sectors, such as psychosocial support and rehabilitation for women and children.

“We were unable to look after young people properly in the response program because we were working on many other priority issues,” U Sai San Kham said. “Children in [displaced persons’] camps are rarely interested in education when they doubt the government will recognise the results of exams in the camp.”

He said the lack of economic opportunies is also a major challenge for aid groups to overcome. “The people in the camps say they feel insecure because they have no income.”

The groups said that while the conflict might be resolved before 2015, when their plan ends, it is not clear when displaced people will be able to return to their homes.

“There are many scenarios … that we need to consider,” U Sai San Kham said. “It is very difficult to tell when the conflict will stop completely and the IDP will be able to return and resettle.

“Even if the ceasefire agreement is attained, there will be many processes necessary for IDP returns, resettlement and rehabilitation.”