Saturday, January 7, 2012

UN running out of funds for Kachin relief effort

kachin refugee 060112

Photo from the Wunpawng Ninghtoi, an elderly Kachin women flees from the Burmese army last year. The UN admitted in a report released last month that it has nearly run out of funds to assist the more than 50,000 people who have fled fighting between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burmese government.

A report released late last month by the UN's office of Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warns that funding for the UN's humanitarian relief efforts in Kachin state are quickly running out.

Referring to the large number of internally displaced people forced from their homes as a result of fighting between the Burmese army and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) the report states "The number of displaced and needs are rapidly increasing and partners have mobilized all existing stocks and funds available. No more buffer resources to continue carrying out even basic assistance in accessible areas, and for an extended period of time is available."

The report's dire conclusions do not come as a surprise to exiled Kachin activists who have worried for some time that the UN and its various agencies were not paying enough attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Kachin and northern Shan States. While UN organizations including the World Food Program, UNICEF and OCHA have spent most of their resources to assist those displaced people who have fled to government controlled areas, the vast majority of people have fled to the KIO territory to get away from the Burmese army.

Reached for comment Moon Nay Li of the Kachin Women's Association of Thailand (KWAT) told the Kachin News Group (KNG) that her organization was very worried that UN and its related agencies are running out funds, a problem she says is the result of the UN not paying enough attention to the Kachin situation since fighting began between the KIO and Burmese government last June.

Moon Nay Li told KNG "we are very concerned about the refugee crisis on the border and we want the UN to ensure that there is funding to deal with what is happening on the ground both on the border and in government areas. It’s important that this humanitarian crisis not be ignored because there are many thousands of civilians affected by the fighting".

Moon Nay Li added that not only Kachin people have been displaced by the fighting but Shan, Palaung and other ethnic people have been forced to flee from their homes since full scale armed conflict broke out between the KIO and the Burmese army last June. According to KWAT conditions for more the than 50,000 refugees trapped in KIO territory along the Burmese China border are deteriorating, with food supplies running low. KWAT also warns that the temporary camps have inadequate sanitation to deal with max the influx of people resulting in the spread of illness to many of the refugees.

Asked about the lack of funding Martin Nesirky, chief spokesperson for Secretary Ban Ki-moon told KNG that the UN is working on the issue. In an email statement sent to KNG Nesirky wrote "The UN and partners have been using their internal funding to respond to the crisis, and are in discussion with partners and donors to ensure additional resources are provided to continue operations, and expand in line with needs."

Nesikry added that "There is a need for additional funding based on an estimated requirement for around 50,000 IDPs for six months, on the assumption of continued access."

Much of the UN's activities in Burma hinge on the approval of the Burmese government and many of the UN's critics say the organization is too worried about upsetting President Thein Sein and his military backers to push for more access to displaced people in need of assistance.

Neskiry told KNG "Dialogue with the Government on the issue of access to Kachin IDPs continues. The Government has recently allowed the UN to have access to KIA/KIO controlled areas. We are going to continue to make the case for that access."


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