Myanmar: "Whole villages are being burnt down"
Violence and civil war on the rise / Access to suffering population increasingly difficult
Myanmar has been in free fall since the coup in February this year, and relatively unnoticed by the world public. Fighting and violence have become part of everyday life in the Southeast Asian country. Over a thousand civilians have already been killed, many thousands arrested. The United Nations estimates that around 200,000 have been internally displaced since the beginning of the coup alone. "Entire villages are simply burned down in central Myanmar but also in Chin or Kayah State in the east and west of the country. People are fleeing into the forests. Here, they are completely defenceless and cut off from any help," said Lothar Kinzelmann, Johanniter Country Office Manager for Myanmar.
Thousands dead in third wave of Covid-19
In addition to the increasing violence, Myanmar experienced a devastating third wave of corona during the summer months, which is only now slowly subsiding. "Many of those who fell ill died alone at home without any medical care. This is because the state health system collapsed after the coup. Oxygen, vital medicines or a vaccination against the virus are not available," says the Myanmar expert. Only about six percent of the Burmese population has been vaccinated against the virus. This puts Myanmar, along with North Korea, at the bottom of the list in all of Asia.
"The Burmese population feels completely abandoned, and it is also becoming increasingly difficult for organisations to access those in particular need," Kinzelmann continues. Therefore, Johanniter calls on the international community to stop watching the misery and to act. The country urgently needs democracy and peace, and organisations need access to the suffering people.
Johanniter active in the country for 13 years
Johanniter has been working in Myanmar for 13 years, supporting the population especially in areas with ethnic minorities, such as Karen, Chin and Shan State. "Through our partner organisations, we have built up community structures in recent years that enable direct assistance in the villages, even if project staff do not have access," says Kinzelmann. The people in the communities receive relief supplies, training and money from Johanniter to improve water and sanitation, health care and mother-child nutrition.
Food for landmine victims
In the Karen region, for example, we are helping 400 landmine victims with food. "Here, mine accidents happen again and again, causing people to lose their legs or be seriously injured. As a result, they can no longer earn an income for their families," reports Kinzelmann. "We also gave micro-loans to the villagers to help them produce soap products and baked goods. We then bought the liquid soap from them, and distributed it to the population as part of our local Covid prevention campaigns. As people can hardly work as day labourers anymore, they now urgently need local sources of income. We support them where and how we can," reports a Johanniter staff member from a village in the Karen region.
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