Kachin refugees struggle for survival after food rations have been reduced. (Photo: Banyol Mon)

Kachin refugees struggle for survival after food rations have been reduced. (Photo: Banyol Mon)

More than 100,000 refugees in camps Kachin State living are now struggling even more as the humanitarian situation has deteriorated. 

The refugees have been living in camps for almost five years and are dependent on international donors for food. 

Banyol Mon traveled to Kachin to find out more.

Eighteen-year-old Ze Hkawng is sitting here waiting for the rain to stop – there isn’t much else to do.

He arrived in the camp when he was thirteen years old.

And he is still terrified of what happened in his village before he fled.

“The gunfire started when I was coming home from school and I went to get my mother from the market. Then my mom and I went to a relative’s house to take refuge because it wasn’t safe to go back to our house. Some of my friends were killed, others were killed trying to hide. That’s why we are too scared to live there anymore,” recounted Ze Hkawng.

The story is not new to many of those who now live in this camp in Myitkyina, home to 300 refugees.

It’s still raining hard and a group of women are huddled in a tent making bags to sell at the market.  

The women here say they earn about $2 each week. There is little to do in the camp so it gives them something to do, and earning some money is better than nothing.

Forty-three year mother Hkawng Naw, also fled the fighting, escaping with her family. 

She has lived in the camp for almost five years and says the situation is getting worse.

“When we first arrived at the camp we had enough food to eat and we had a shelter, and extra money to spend. We received enough support so life was much better. Then, the support gradually decreased, it has gotten worse since the beginning of this year because the relief provider is now distributing cash instead of actual food. We get $9 a month now. How can we survive on that?” asks Hkawng Naw.

Around 100,000 refugees in Kachin State haven't been able to return home after the fighting resumed between the military and the Independence Army, and Kachin armed groups at the start of 2011. 

Hkawng Naw says life in the camp is really uncertain.

“No one has permanent jobs, I can’t speak for other camps, but we don’t have any education to find a job either. So we have to wait for an employer that is looking for manual labor. We can go months without work,” Hkawng Naw explained.

Some of the children in the camp have even dropped out of school to find work. 

People like 18-year-old Ze Hkawng - his elderly mum can’t work, so he didn’t have much of a choice except to leave school and try and find work to support her.

The United Nations’ World Food Programme, or WFP, is the main provider of food at the camp, but earlier this year it cut its food rations at the Kachin camp. 

Asia Calling has contacted WFP for comment several times but they have not responded. Yet it has previously stated that the organization “cannot go on providing unconditional assistance”.

Tu Ja is a chairman of Kachin State Democracy Party. He says the Burmese governments needs to do more.

First off, he says, refugees in Kachin need to be able to return home.

“The first thing is safety for these internally displaced peoples so they are able to go home. So the fighting should be stopped and not only that but also the land mines around their area, which have been used by both sides should be cleared so that these people can return,”  insists Tu Ja.

Burma’s National League for Democracy led government is trying to make peace between the military and ethnic armed groups, by creating a second Pin-lon agreement. 

The first Pin-lon was drafted by General Aung San in 1947, and promised ethnic leaders a place in the federal state.

But based on the Constitution his daughter, and now party leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has no power to control the military.  

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