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Myanmar: Women fire-fighters help build safer community

13 January 2015 - 11:57am
Source: Myanmar Red Cross Society Country: Myanmar

Most of the people in the 21st ward of South Dagon Township, Yangon, are casual workers who earn their livelihood as casual laborers, masons, carpenters and etc. These workers used to go to the market and look for job on a daily basis.

Ma San Wai’s husband, who is a helper in home decorations, is also a casual worker. He leaves for work early morning and returns home late at night. Likewise, most able-bodied men in the ward go out early to earn money and only the aged people, children and women remain in their respective homes.

Ma San Wai has a busy day taking care of her children and the household work till her husband’s arrival. She gets a respite for a shower only after her husband returns and takes care of the children. The family manages to spend some time together at dinner which is often a time for sharing the day’s updates and challenges, especially for Ma San Wai.

Despite her extremely busy daily schedule, Ma San Wai attended the disaster management training organized by Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) and is now trained in firefighting. Over a talk in the late evening, she shared with us, “A fire occurred two years ago. Many houses burnt down during that fire and there were not enough people to fight the fire in a timely manner. Most people didn’t have disaster knowledge.” Last year, the Red Cross gave us trainings on disaster knowledge, and health education including how to fight a fire. I was glad to participate in it. The Red Cross mainly shared with us what we should or should not do before, during and after a flood, earthquake, fire, cyclone and so forth. We did not have that kind of knowledge before we attended the training. Now we know well how to prepare, how to face, how to respond and what to do during such situations. And yes, we also learned how we can fight a fire and what needs to be prepared for it.” she continued.

U Htay Win, Ward Administrator is appreciative of Ma San Wai and her neighbours in the training. He said, “We formed an urban disaster risk reduction and management committee in our ward. The committee is responsible to implement risk reduction activities including sharing disaster preparedness knowledge i.e. how to live before, during and after a disaster, alerts and forecasts for disasters and alerts for break outs of fire. Women are especially trained how to fight fire systematically while their husbands are out for work”.

Other families are also not scared of or horrified when there is a fire incident. “Most women in this ward including myself attended the training. Now we have the self-confidence to prevent, prepare and face a fire,” said Ma San Wai before she continued her busy day.

Myanmar: Learning empowers students and community

13 January 2015 - 11:54am
Source: Myanmar Red Cross Society Country: Myanmar

Promoting School Based Disaster Risk Reduction is one of the components of the Urban Disaster Risk Reduction Program of the Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS). It has been implementing the project since 2012 in two schools of South Dagon Township, Yangon.

“We have learnt about cyclone, flood, earthquake, fire hazards and how to prepare for these hazards. We are very happy to participate, especially in drill exercises, which is very interesting for me” said Maung Paing Soe Khant, a student from Grade 7 of No.12 Basic Education Middle School (BEMS) of the 71st ward.

The teachers have been provided disaster preparedness trainings and they then shared their knowledge with the students. “We attended a five days training including simulation exercises. We passed our knowledge to the senior students and they also like to do the same to the younger students as a form of peer-to-peer education.” Daw Hnin Hnin Kyu, a teacher from BEMS (12) explained.

“We organized students to carry out simulation exercise regularly almost every week. Students are happy and it seemed that they very much enjoyed the exercise,” she continued.

“Floods happen here often, but we were not much affected. However, we realized that disasters can happen anytime. We now have the knowledge to face disasters; even we know that it is not easy. We trust that we will be able to protect lives and reduce unnecessary damages of livelihoods,” said U Htay Win, the Ward Administrator.

At the school of the ward, the Myanmar Red Cross provided First Aid and hygiene promotion trainings and disaster preparedness education sessions together with simulation exercises.

Ma Khine Thazin, a thirteen years old student from Grade 7 said, “We did not know earlier that we needed to clean our hands, foods, water and toilets. The Red Cross shared knowledge of personal hygiene, cleanliness and how we can get an infection. If we fail to clean, we may be infected through our hands. I am happy that I am able to apply my knowledge which I received from the Red Cross training in my daily life, which is very useful for me. I am so proud that I have a chance to share my knowledge to others especially to my family members and neighbours,” wearing a big smile on her face.

Parents are enthused by the knowledge gained by their children. “The students share their knowledge on how to prepare and respond to earthquake, flood, cyclone, etc. It is impressive that, they adopted the simulation exercise into their daily games and plays,” said Daw Khin Aye, a parent.

Myanmar: Reducing risks and mobilizing government support

13 January 2015 - 11:52am
Source: Myanmar Red Cross Society Country: Myanmar

Over this culvert, around 2000 persons, students, peddlers, workers, and other community members, pass through daily towards their respective destinations. The culvert was constructed by the community with the financial and technical support of Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS). Kyun community becomes an island during the rainy season. It is the only access-way they use to go outside their village.

“The culvert, that also functions as a bridge, is very good for us because we have to cross this area to reach our work. We could not pass through in the rainy season before this bridge was built. It was previously a small bamboo bridge made from waste material of bamboo and plastics and was not appropriate to be used when submerged in water. Now we can use the bridge at all times,” said U Kyaw Win.

The MRCS supported the culvert construction in order to ensure proper drainage of rainwater to the canal or creek in addition to having a safe access way. Needs assessments were conducted together with the ward disaster risk reduction committee. The committee members identified that insufficient rainwater drainage was a risk, and developed a plan of action to mitigate those risks. Based on the plan, they built the bridge in 2013 with MRCS support. It is now easier to access the community and its drainage system is better also benefiting their health status.

Recognizing the benefit of this intervention, the ward disaster risk reduction committee shared their risk reduction plan with the local government to obtain further support. Responding to the request, the Union Government allocated 42 million Kyats for the construction of 85 small culverts that will cover the whole ward.

“Based on our plan, and the success of the initial culvert constructed with Red Cross support, the local government submitted a request to the Regional Government. The Regional Government advanced the request to the Union Government. After that, the Union Government allocated a budget for 85 small culverts to be constructed in our ward. Now we are starting the construction” said U KyawMyint, 71 Ward Administrator.

While the Myanmar Red Cross Society supported these community initiatives technically and financially as part of its auxiliary role, the community moved it forward with their clear plan of action and commitment towards risk reduction.

Indeed, this particular work is done by the people, for the people, initiated by the Red Cross.

Myanmar: Building healthier communities

13 January 2015 - 11:51am
Source: Myanmar Red Cross Society Country: Myanmar

After conducting needs assessments, the Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) has supported the community of the 21st ward with fly-proof latrines in order to reduce the risk of health problems.

In the ward, community members often used open latrines, latrines without walls, which became a breeding grounds for flies. A fly-proof latrine is one that has four walls and a ceiling and preventing flies from reaching into the latrines.

“In most cases, houses and latrines are very close. During the rainy season, both of them are submerged in water. Thus, health problems occur more often during each rainy season.” said U Htay Win, the Ward Administrator of ward number 21.

To help the community to understand the root cause of health issues in the community and prevent infections and diseases, the Myanmar Red Cross conducted health education sessions which went along with the provision of the latrines to 75 families.

“Later, disaster education was slowly merged into health education sessions. The community here is really appreciated Red Cross for sharing Disaster and Health knowledge”, said by U Aye Lwin, a Red Cross Volunteer who is also a community mobilize working for the Red Cross disaster risk reduction project.

“We have been living here for three years. In the first year, we can only afford to construct shelter. Then we built a latrine in the second year. It was just a little hut made from stitched Nipa leaves. Last year, the Red Cross gave us latrines and they taught us how to use it properly.” said Daw Aye AyeThan, a resident of the 21st ward.

Not only Daw Aye AyeThan’s latrine, but most of the families’ latrines are similar. They too did not have hygiene and sanitation knowledge before the Red Cross intervention.

Before the Red Cross latrine provision, community members of 21st ward suffered health problems. “Most of them had no fly-proof latrines; they went out to the open, often in an improper sanitation environment. The number of diarrhoea patients was very high two years ago, but there are no incidents reported this year.” said U Htay Win.

Myanmar: Water supply at the doorstep

13 January 2015 - 11:49am
Source: Myanmar Red Cross Society Country: Myanmar

As part of its Urban Disaster Risk Reduction project, the Myanmar Red Cross provided tube-wells attached with an overhead water tanks (with storage capacity of 2500 gallons) to two communities where they did not have access to water sources. The population of each community is about 2500 people.

“We used to buy water and pay 400 Kyats per barrel (approximately 200 liters) for a family with three family members for a day’s use. A large family of five to eight members consumes two to three barrels (400 to 600 liters) a day which costs 1000 Kyats but most families here are not able to afford that amount as their average income is 4000 Kyats per day. Hence, they had to fetch water from their neighbouring community which is forty-five minutes walking distance from their home,” said Daw Than Htay, a community member from 71st ward. (1 US$ ~ 960 kyats).

The overhead tank is connected to a water distribution network up to the beneficiaries’ houses. Community members are happy with the water solution provided by the Red Cross project as they do not need to spend their time to fetch water, which normally takes at least 90 minutes. More comfortably, they now fetch water at their doorstep. Fortunately, the quality of water is good for drinking and domestic use.

“Now, we don’t need to buy water. From the bottom of our hearts, we know the value of clean water so each family in this community is glad to contribute 400 kyats per week, to the community’s water distribution maintenance fund. The fund will be used for running cost of the water pump such as fuel, maintenance cost, and electricity bills, empowering the role of community in long run. Apparently, some families fail to make regular contributions. Fortunately, there are lone donors in this community who volunteer to contribute for others, which is very good. From now on we can use clean water every day which was our dream years back. It was a nightmare for us to buy water on daily basis whereas we had no choice to think about the quality of water whether it was clean or not,” said U Kyaw Win, a community member from the 21st ward.

Incidents of waterborne diseases in the community significantly dropped after the installation of the water system providing clean water to the community. “We used to have a few waterborne diseases occurring in families with poor hygiene practices. The Red Cross provided both clean water and good hygiene knowledge to both communities. Because of that, there has been no incident report yet this year and I would like to sustain this achievement for the long term,” U Htay Win, 21st Ward Administrator, added.

The Myanmar Red Cross has handed over the water facilities to the community in past year. “We promised that we will maintain, sustain, and improve the water facilities. We are mobilizing community members to work together for our own community,” said, U Kyaw Myint who is a chairman of the Ward Disaster Management Committee.

Myanmar: UNHCR provides basic services to communities in the south-east

13 January 2015 - 4:44am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Myanmar, Thailand

MAWLAMYINE, Mon State – Hundreds of internally displaced people (IDPs) will benefit from a water point and a school building built by the UN refugee agency in Pa Yit Kho village in Thaton township in Mon State of south-east Myanmar.

Today, UNHCR’s Representative for Myanmar Mr. Giuseppe de Vincentiis officially handed over a water point and primary school to communities in Pa Yit Kho village during a ceremony attended by the State Minister of Border and Security Col. Htay Myint Aung, the State Director of the Department of Education Mr. U Myo Tint Aung, the Chairman of Social Development of Thaton township from the Karen National Union Mr. Pha Do Saw Tin Soe and the Secretary of the Myanmar Red Cross Society Dr. Aung Mon.

The water point and the primary school will benefit over 40 families and 62 students, numbering a total of 262 people living in Pa Yit Kho and the nearby villages. “We are extremely satisfied with these projects”, said de Vincentiis. “Our aim is to support these communities that have been affected by conflict so they can build for a brighter future, especially at this time when we see many changes in Myanmar and new avenues for peace.” A large number of people are displaced in south-eastern Myanmar’s Mon, Kayah and Kayin States and Tanintharyi Region, where UNHCR is operating. Additionally, some 110,000 Myanmar refugees are hosted in nine camps along the Myanmar-Thai border.

Speaking about refugee return from Thailand to Myanmar, de Vincentiis said: “UNHCR is preparing for a day when the situation is conducive for refugees to voluntarily and safely return home. For this to be durable, we need to work together, as Government, Ethnic Groups, local communities and international community, to design a response that is part of a broader comprehensive effort in the south-east. Refugees have hopes, fears and needs that are important to be understood and taken into account.” The water point and school construction was undertaken by UNHCR with its partners Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) and Bridge Asia Japan (BAJ). The projects were generously supported by the Governments of Japan and of the United States of America, two of UNHCR’s main donors.

Between 2004 and 2014, UNHCR assisted in building more than 500 rural health subcentres, primary schools and water points, as well as several hundred rehabilitation projects, school latrines, transitional shelters. The agency also provided school and medical equipment and relief supplies to address the needs of internally displaced people and refugees who decided on their own to return from Thailand to Myanmar.

Myanmar: Opium Turns Hillside Town Into ‘Widow Village’

12 January 2015 - 2:14am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By SALAI THANT ZIN / THE IRRAWADDY

KANZAM, Chin State — New Year’s Eve passed quietly in Kanzam, a small village in northern Chin State. While other villages in remote Tonzang Township were busily preparing for a celebration, this one remained eerily still. Kanzam’s old and weather-beaten Catholic chapel was barred shut and entirely without décor. No bells were ringing, no churchgoers singing, no priest stood in the chapel, once the holy heart of this pious village.

Bordering India’s Manipur and Mizoram states to the west and Sagaing Division to the east, Tonzang Township is Chin State’s most mountainous and sparsely populated area, with little to no access to roads. Kanzam village dates back more than a century, its remaining residents said, and in the past it has been home to up to 100 people. In the 1990’s, they said, a new crop was introduced to the hill-dwelling agrarians. Since opium crept into their lives, the village population dove to 22.

There is not a single living man in his 30’s left in Kanzam. In fact, the village is home to only three males, all around the age of 18. Neighboring villages refer to it with a spooky epithet—Widow Village—because drug use has claimed so many of its men. Only three children attend the local primary school, as their parents tend poppy fields and brew rice liquor in the daytime.

“Drug dealers come through forests on mountain ranges, they don’t use main roads,” Chin State Police Chief Myint Lwin told The Irrawaddy after a recent visit to the desolate town. He explained that dealers from Moreh, in India, and from Sagaing Division’s Tamu and Kale cross into the obscure terrain to buy raw opium, which was in high demand around 2010. At its peak, he said, the product brought in between 1 and 3 million kyats (US$1-3,000) per viss, a Burmese measurement equal to about 1.6 kilograms, or 3.6 pounds.

As demand waned, however, prices dropped to around 700,000 kyats for the same yield. Despite the steep decline in value, poppy cultivation was still easier and more profitable than most other crops, so production remained steady.

A rise in addiction followed naturally from increased production, and while the village’s men were the first to fall, women have also become users. Mang Lian Lung, a woman from Kanzam, said that the drug helps her make it through long and difficult days in the fields.

“I became addicted to opium while working at a poppy farm,” she said. “The job is tiring, but smoking opium keeps me active. I know it’s not good, but I can’t help it.”

‘Poppy Made the Mountains Bald’

The rugged top of the Arakan Yoma mountain range bulges through the center of Chin State, the poorest, sparsest and least connected of Burma’s administrative regions. The climate and soils vary throughout the state, where many still rely on traditional agricultural practices.

Villagers said that opium became a hot crop in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when drug and arms dealers from neighboring Sagaing Division paid villagers to take up cultivation. State police said the crop later seeped into other areas in the northern part of the state.

Farmers adapted to the new production cycle: they cut and burn hillside forest in April and May, till in July, sow the seeds in August and September and harvest from December to March. The practice hasn’t gone unnoticed, leaving a distinct mark on an otherwise untouched landscape. A hunter lamented that the felling of large trees to make room for poppy “has made the mountain bald.”

The complete history and scale of the problem in Chin State is still unknown. The United nations has been involved in anti-narcotics activities in Burma since 1974, but the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conducted its first cultivation survey in Chin State just last year. Only a negligible amount of the country’s 670-ton annual production potential comes from Chin State (most of the country’s opiates are sourced from the “golden triangle” where Shan State borders Thailand and Laos), but the new data shows cause for concern.

Tonzang and nearby Tedim townships were areas of interest when the UNODC made rounds. Its research, drawn from field visits, interviews and various imaging systems, found that about 1,100 hectares of land were under cultivation in Chin State in 2014. A lack of any previous data meant that no trends could be yet be identified.

To those who live there, however, the pattern is clear. Ba Min, chairman of the Kale district chapter of the National League for Democracy, said the drug problem “has become serious,” and that local law enforcement and government officials are exacerbating the problem. Bribery and other forms of corruption are rampant, he said, hampering efforts to curb drug production and trafficking. “It is quite clear who is involved,” he said. “It’s an open secret.”

Chin State authorities said that they have a plan to eliminate poppy production within three years. While education initiatives and some minimal punitive actions are already underway, the biggest obstacle is that the government has presented no sustainable agricultural alternatives in the region.

Authorities and locals are both hopeful that development will ease the dilemma, pinning their hopes on a new road being built from the coarse mountainside to Sagaing Division. Ease of transport will likely make a variety of crops more profitable for farmers, as they will no longer be faced with the choice of selling drugs to traffickers or walking seven miles to the nearest marketplace.

“We don’t grow poppy because we love it,” confessed Mang Lian Kai, one of the three young men left in Widow Village. “We promise, we will never grow poppy again if a road and a mobile network are built.”

Thailand: NGO calls for Thai authorities to respect Myanmar migrant rights

12 January 2015 - 1:05am
Source: Mizzima News Country: Myanmar, Thailand

A migrant rights NGO is calling on the authorities in southern Thai tourist resorts to respect minimum wage, work permit and social security regulations for Myanmar migrant workers who contribute to the region’s successful economy.

Representatives of the Migrant Worker Rights Network formally handed a complaint letter to the Koh Samui provincial offices on January 9, signed by MWRN President U Sein Htay Sun regarding what is alleges are systematic violations of migrant worker labour and employment rights on Koh Samui, Koh Phangnan and Koh Tao.

These three islands are all globally renowned, successful and productive tourist islands in Surat Thani Province that are a key source of income for Thailand's economy, according to the NGO.

The letter was delivered by MWRN International Affairs AdvisorMr Andy Hall, accompanied by Human Rights and Development Foundation’s Daw Aye Mar Cho, writes Mr Hall on his Facebook page.

The letter has also been delivered to the governor of Surat Thani province and other relevant authorities.

The NGO, which supports Myanmar migrant workers’ rights, called on the Thai authorities to ensure the migrant workers receive the official 300 baht [K10,000] minimum daily wage, appropriate overtime pay, and time off. The letter calls for registration and work permits for workers, as well social security coverage, including support in the case of illness and accidents.

MWRN called for all migrant workers on Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangnan to be protected and treated in accordance with Thai and international labour and employment laws, the rule of law and general human rights.

The letter is said to be the result of three months of investigations and interviews with migrant workers on the islands.

MWRN has found migrants on the islands frequently receive a monthly salary that, when calculated based on numbers of days and hours worked per month, is below the minimum wage levels.

In addition, many are not sufficiently protected in case of illness or accidents. The NGO has come across cases of migrants who have been left destitute after an accident or illness, with little or no support provided by their employer.

Myanmar: Hepatitis research to be conducted nationwide in February

11 January 2015 - 11:33pm
Source: New Light of Myanmar Country: Myanmar

By Khaing Thanda Lwin

Yangon, 11 Jan — A survey of people infected with liver disease, especially hepatitis B and C viruses, is reported to be conducted nationwide in February by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with Liver Foundation, a local nonprofit organization.

“The project is believed to help reduce the death toll and the outbreak of the silent killers,” said Dr Daw Khin Pyone Kyi, President of the Foundation.

After the survey, the two bodies have plans to distribute anti-hepatitis C virus drugs free of charge to infected people by the middle of the year,she added.

At a recent meeting in the capital city, the ministry is said to have vowed to accelerate its initiative called National Hepatitis Programme in partnership with NGOs and INGOs to bridge the treatment gaps for hepatitis virus.

According to a WHO survey, there are about 400 million people living with hepatitis B virus and some 170 million with hepatitis C virus.

In Myanmar, it is estimated that 8-10 per cent of the people surveyed are found contracting hepatitis B virus, while two to five per cent are suffering from the hepatitis C, with experts noting that the actual figures would be higher following the nationwide survey.

More joint projects and programmes will be implemented throughout the year, Dr Daw Khin Pyone Kyi said.

Both hepatitis B and C viruses have potential to lead to chronic liver infections which can be transmitted through contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person.

Vaccines are available for hepatitis B, but there is no vaccine available for hepatitis C. Despite this, effective drugs to fight the virus are available in some countries, with experts saying that these drugs have potential to kill the virus in a short time.—GNLM

Myanmar: Death Toll Climbs to 4, Search Ongoing After Hpakant Rockslide

10 January 2015 - 1:55am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By NYEIN NYEIN / THE IRRAWADDY

RANGOON — Local authorities have confirmed at least four deaths after a rockslide on Tuesday buried small-scale miners at a jade mine in Hpakant, Kachin State, home to Burma’s richest deposits of the precious stone.

The search for bodies began on Wednesday, with a local rescue team uncovering the fourth body on Thursday afternoon.

Myo Thant Aung, the deputy director of the Hpakant Township administrative office, told The Irrawaddy that search efforts would continue.

“Four bodies—two men and two women who were small-scale miners—have been found so far, but we cannot tell how many are still missing as we have not yet received any reports about missing persons,” he said.

The local official said township authorities had requested that nearby communities contact them if any of their family members are unaccounted for. Earlier on Thursday, Reuters quoted an anonymous employee of a mining company in Hpakant as saying the death toll could climb as high as 50 people.

Thousands of illegal small-scale miners, also known as hand-pickers, have combed through Hpakant’s famed jade mines for years, seeking fortune—or merely eking out a livelihood—from the prized green stones. Large-scale mining in the area was suspended for security reasons in 2011, but were allowed to resume in September of last year.

Myo Thant Aung said authorities had also met with survivors of the rockslide, who live in nine temporary shops that have sprung up to cater to the basic needs of hand-pickers. The shops are located near piles of mining waste, some of which tower 200 to 300 feet in height.

Three companies involved in mining in the area and a handful of social organizations on Thursday donated rice sacks and 350,000 kyats (US$350) to each of the families of the victims.

The four victims identified so far are all ethnic Arakanese, including two women, Ma Sein Htay, 35, and Thida Soe, 21. Both women and the two male victims—Nay Lin, 20, and Myo Naing, 23—migrated to the jade mines of Hpakant from western Arakan State.

“The pile of rocks overwhelmed them while they were doing small-scale work in the late afternoon [on Tuesday],” said Myo Thant Aung.

The rockslide occurred at a site where earthen waste is piled by the three private companies that donated to the victims’ families—the mining firms Unity, Wai and Yadana Sein Thiri. The jade mining camp is located about three miles from the town of Hpakant.

Rockslides, a frequent occurrence in Hpakant, are estimated by some to have caused more than 100 deaths over the past half-decade.

Small-scale mining is technically illegal in Hpakant, but Myo Thant Aung said the practice is tolerated to an extent by local authorities and companies mining in the area, realizing that a strict ban would leave many without a means of earning a living.

Myanmar: Search called off at Myanmar jade mine

9 January 2015 - 3:10am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar

Yangon, Myanmar | Friday 1/9/2015 - 06:57 GMT

Rescuers Friday called off the search at a jade mine in war-torn northern Myanmar that was struck by a landslide this week after all missing people were accounted for, police said.

Four bodies were pulled from the rubble at the mine in Hpakant town, Kachin state, which was engulfed by a wall of mud on Tuesday evening.

The landslide is believed to have occurred when debris heaped beside the mine collapsed after it was loosened by heavy rains.

"We stopped our search and rescue today as we found all missing persons," Police Major Naing Win of Hpakant police station told AFP.

The death toll could have been considerably higher had the landslide hit earlier in the day, he added. Instead it struck around 7:05 pm (1235 GMT) after most miners had returned home to eat dinner.

"About eight tents selling food were there with very few customers inside when the landslide occurred. That's why there were fewer casualties," Major Naing Win said.

Up to 90 percent of the world's jadeite -- the most sought-after type of jade -- is mined in Hpakant, feeding a vast appetite for the green stone in Asia and particularly China, where it is believed to ward off evil spirits and improve health.

Accidents and landslides at Myanmar's jade mines are commonplace.

The famously murky trade in the resource-rich nation has seen lower sales in recent years in part because of an upsurge in fighting in Kachin.

But it remains highly lucrative and observers say a slice of all jade revenue finds its way into the pockets of Kachin rebels, who have a large presence in the area.

Some 100,000 people have been displaced in the state since a 17-year ceasefire between the government and ethnic Kachin rebels broke down in June 2011.

Tensions have soared in recent weeks during an uptick in violence between the army and rebels in the region, near the border with China.

hla/jta/cah

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Myanmar: At least 4 die in Myanmar landslide

9 January 2015 - 3:10am
Source: Bangkok Post Country: Myanmar

YANGON — At least four people have been killed in a landslide at a jade mine in Myanmar's north, authorities said Friday.

A rescue mission in the mining town of Phakant was called off late Thursday after a search team recovered four bodies, including those of two women, local government official Than Shwe said, adding that no other people had officially been reported missing so far.

Heavy rains caused the collapse Tuesday night, Than Shwe said by telephone from Hpakant town in Kachin state, about 960 kilometres from Yangon.

Myanmar is one of the world's biggest producers of jade, most found in the conflict-torn mountains of Kachin state, where ethnic rebels have been fighting the government for more than half a century. Landslides are common in the area and impoverished artisanal miners have been buried by rockslides on unstable slopes before.

The vast majority of the gemstones, considered to be of the highest quality, are smuggled over the border to China.

Hpakant, which is controlled by the government, has been closed off to large scale miners since 2011 because of the conflict.

Myanmar: After 20 years, BWU still committed to women’s struggle

9 January 2015 - 12:03am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By SONYA CARASSIK RATTY

At a meeting in Chiang Mai on Wednesday to mark the organisation’s 20th anniversary, Burmese Women’s Union (BWU) reiterated the need for continued work to support women who are suffering from the ongoing armed conflict in Burma.

Mi Sue Pwint, a former member of the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) and one of the seven founding members of BWU, all of whom hail from the 1988 student movement, told the meeting that the BWU “has always strived for independence, without outside influence”.

Thwe Zin Toe, the outgoing general-secretary of BWU, said, “In the future, we aim to increase the role of women in politics in accordance with our organisation’s objectives, goals and expectations.

“Within the last 20 years, we trained many young women leaders and, as a result, improved the lives of young women, allowing them to work in various fields with self-confidence.”

The newly appointed Board Committee and Secretariat members for 2015-17 were announced at the gathering, which coincided with the group’s seventh biennial congress, with incoming Secretariat members stating their commitment to assist victims of human rights abuses, including sexual violence, and to tackle the impunity with which abusers act.

Other addressees spoke of the central importance of women in building a sustainable peace in Burma. Speaking as general-secretary of the umbrella organisation Women’s League of Burma (WLB), Tin Tin Nyo said that “BWU strongly believes in and promotes gender equality as well as political change in Burma.”

BWU is a founder member of the WLB, which includes more than a dozen women’s groups representing Karen, Karenni, Kachin, Shan, Palaung and other ethnic women’s interests.

Thailand: Pala-U Noi Medical Update: December 2014

9 January 2015 - 12:02am
Source: Jungle Aid Country: Myanmar, Thailand

Though we had been supporting the villagers that needed medical and other help, we went back to the village after three months. Besides the long overdue medical clinic, we had to do village assessment in terms of education, health and hygiene, see progress on water delivery project and any other immediate needs of the villagers.We had a team of 10 enthusiastic volunteers, including a very young volunteer of 11 years old, in 2 4x4s; both donated. One, regular, by Dave and the other by Emma.

Leaving Hua Hin just after 7AM, we made a brief stop at Home for Students where volunteers were impressed by how, gradually, it is becoming a self-sustaining community. We organized the logistics of Choo Choo May’s upcoming visit to hospital in Bangkok for the minor procedure to take out the sutures from the eye transplant he had received. Once again, were pleased by the news that no one needed medical attention at H4S and all were in good health.

We had two medical- and one Osteopath teams ready to see patients as soon as we reached the village. Medical teams were headed by Dr Coco and Emma while our osteopath Sam saw patients with muscle and joint pains. Enu and Thu helped the medical teams with translation. In the mean time, the assessment team, Prabhjeet (project manager), Nick Seymour (volunteer) and Yui (translator), talked to the village representative for assessment of current projects and immediate needs of the village.

We found out that the tank and pump installed by Jungle Aid are not being shared by the entire village. Also, the second tank isn’t currently being used. We will formulate an action plan for better sharing of the first tank as well as installation of the second tank. We need to make sure that present water delivery system is being properly maintained as well. The villagers requested for better lamps as light from the makeshift arrangement they are using (wicks doused in diesel) are not sufficient. There are solar panels installed in the village but these are not functioning. We will be looking at possibility to repair these panels and also look for more efficient and better lamps. We will review these matters and look for solutions before our next visit.

We found out a 14 year old mother who isn’t attending school due to her maternal responsibilities. We will now be looking at how to help her resuming school and try to prevent this happening to other girls in future. We asked for the list of all children under 17 years of age who are not attending school / need assistance with going to school now and for next year. This list will be given to us on our next visit.

The forest rangers stopped by to have a talk with our team. They requested us to create awareness about cleanliness, waste / garbage management and general hygiene. We will plan an awareness campaign for the villages and have some classes / leaflets prepared. We will try to replicate Bon Luk model for garbage collection and disposal.

Our medical teams saw 50 patients, mostly children with colds, cough and fever. Donations of clothes and shoes were distributed very quickly. We incentivized the girls attending school by letting them have the first choice of clothes and footwear. The villagers were pleased to see many warm clothes in the bags we had brought for them and pillows, which were gratefully received. They had requested for warm clothes (at present the early mornings and nights are very cold).

After an amazing day with incredible volunteers and incredible people we work with, we headed home.

Thank you for supporting the work we do…….

Myanmar: UNICEF applauds Myanmar’s first-ever social protection strategy

8 January 2015 - 7:00am
Source: UN Children's Fund Country: Myanmar

Nay Pyi Taw, 30 December 2014: UNICEF congratulates the Government of Myanmar on the adoption of the country’s first national social protection strategy. The document, which has been developed in the last year by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement-with technical support from UNICEF and inputs from UN agencies, bilateral development partners, NGOs- was endorsed by the president of Myanmar and officially launched today in Nay Pyi Taw.

“This is an historical milestone in the recent reform history of Myanmar, and in an exceptionally short time”, said Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF representative in Myanmar. “The document presented today represents a major opportunity to change the life of children and families in Myanmar, and in particular the most vulnerable ones”, he added.

The first-ever National Social Protection strategy is both comprehensive and innovative, and sets new standards for the Asian region. The strategy takes a universal approach to cash benefits and highlights key flagship programmes with calculated costs in terms of GDP % and impacts on poverty reduction. In addition, the documemt clearly articulates social vulnerabilities and the need to hire and deploy 6000 social work case managers to facilitate an integrated approach to social services at decentralized level. It also gives prominence to disaster risk reduction, in recognition to the impact natural and human-made disasters have on vulnerable populations, especially children.

UNICEF applauds the strong focus on the first and very critical 1,000 days of life, with cash transfer to pregnant women and children up to 2 years of age – as well as the inclusion of a long-term support for children up to 15 years, a school feeding programme, and another programme to assist children with disabilities. With today’s launch, Myanmar is positioning itself with Thailand as the two countries in ASEAN with the most progressive vision on social protection for families and children.

“For the past two years, we have been discussing the opportunities for Myanmar to invest a great part of its revenues into services for families and children, and hopefully the Social Protection policy, strategy, and strategy plan will help make the case. It now all depends on policy makers, including the Parliamentarians, to make social protection a reality for millions of children and their families, right now, right from the 2015/2016 budget.” concluded Bertrand Bainvel.

UNICEF Myanmar reaffirms its commitment to continue supporting the reforms undertaken by the Government of Myanmar, namely by providing technical support and coordinating with donors and international agencies in key areas such as Education, Water and Sanitation, Nutrition and Social Protection- all areas critical for child survival, development and protection.

Myanmar: ADPC trains youth volunteers on disaster preparedness in Myanmar

8 January 2015 - 4:10am
Source: Asian Disaster Preparedness Center Country: Myanmar

Yangon, Myanmar

Together with the Relief and Resettlement Department of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Rehabilitation of Myanmar, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), UN-Habitat and World Vision train Burmese youth volunteers on disaster management and community-based disaster risk reduction.

Following the ongoing training courses, the department aims to establish Youth Volunteer Committees in all villages with the goal of raising disaster awareness and improving the communities’ knowledge of early warning systems, disaster response, recovery and rehabilitation.

Myanmar ranks first as the most at-risk country to natural hazards of the Asia-Pacific region, with historical data indicating that the likelihood for medium to large-scale natural disasters to occur is high. More specifically the country is exposed to multiple natural hazards such as cyclones, earthquakes, floods and fire. Youth volunteers will be an essential part of the recovery in the occasion of a natural hazard.

The first three youth volunteer training courses were conducted in the Yangon region in July–December 2014. ADPC supported the courses by training the youth on climate change, disaster response, disaster recovery and reconstruction, as well as the linkages between disasters and development.

ADPC continues to support the Relief and Resettlement Department for the upcoming training sessions this year.

Bangladesh: IOM to Provide Humanitarian Assistance to Undocumented Myanmar Nationals in Bangladesh

8 January 2015 - 3:27am
Source: International Organization for Migration Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Government of Bangladesh today (8 January) signed a project agreement to provide health, water, sanitation and hygiene services and related information materials in two districts of Cox’s Bazar.

The Government’s endorsement of the three-year, USD 18 million project, allows IOM to provide much needed humanitarian assistance to Undocumented Myanmar Nationals and vulnerable host communities in the coastal city located at the south-eastern tip of Bangladesh bordering Myanmar.

The project will improve access to primary and secondary health care in the target districts through mobile medical teams, strengthened government health services and improved health referrals. It will strengthen the water and sanitation infrastructure in the district by providing deep tube wells and latrines in the makeshift settlements and underserved host communities. Community outreach around key health and hygiene issues will ensure better overall health for over 100,000 vulnerable people.

It will also support the Government of Bangladesh in coordinating the overall provision of humanitarian services for Undocumented Myanmar Nationals living in the area. The three-year project is currently supported by the American, British and Swedish Governments.

“This intervention has been carefully planned and supports the Government of Bangladesh’s National Strategy on Myanmar Refugees and Undocumented Myanmar Nationals and the local population,” said Sarat Dash, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Bangladesh. “This support is very significant and we thank the Government and the international community for their faith in IOM to provide sustained humanitarian assistance.”

For more information please contact Sarat Dash, IOM Bangladesh, Email: sdash@iom.int

Myanmar: Two dead, unknown number missing in Myanmar jade mine landslide

8 January 2015 - 12:22am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar

Yangon, Myanmar | AFP | Thursday 1/8/2015 - 04:32 GMT

Rescuers continued to comb through rubble Thursday for victims of a landslide at a jade mine in war-torn northern Myanmar that killed at least two people, according to police.

An unknown number of miners are missing after heavy rain triggered a landslide in Hpakant town in Kachin state on Tuesday evening, a local police officer told AFP.

The landslide is believed to have occurred after debris heaped beside the mine collapsed after it was loosened by heavy rains.

"Two dead bodies have been found. We are still trying to search for others but there is a lot of rubble. We don't know how many people are missing," he said, requesting anonymity.

"Rescue teams are using hoes to search for the missing people. We don't have a list of people who are working... they are transient workers... whenever an accident happens, it's difficult to get exact figures."

He added that mining accidents were common in the area with several recent fatalities caused by landslides.

Up to 90 percent of the world's jadeite -- the most sought-after type of jade -- is mined in Hpakant, feeding a vast appetite for the green stone in Asia, particularly in China where it is believed to ward off evil spirits and bring better health.

The famously murky jade trade in resource-rich Myanmar has seen lower sales in recent years in part because of an upsurge in fighting in Kachin.

But it remains highly lucrative and observers say a slice of all jade revenue finds its way into the pockets of Kachin rebels who have a large presence in the area.

Some 100,000 people have been displaced in the state since a 17-year ceasefire between the government and ethnic Kachin rebels broke down in June 2011.

Tensions have soared in recent weeks with an uptick in violence between the army and rebels in the region, near the border with China.

hla/pj/apj/psr

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Myanmar: 88 Gen delegates meet Myitsone villagers

7 January 2015 - 11:45pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

Representatives of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society (88GPOS) civil society group and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) met in state capital Myitkyina on Monday to discuss the ongoing peace process in Burma, though indications suggest that the suspended Myitsone mega-dam project featured prominently in their talks.

Mya Aye of the 88GPOS wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday that his organisation was hopeful it would see progress at the upcoming round of ceasefire talks between the ethnic bloc’s Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team and the government’s Union Peace-making Work Committee.

He also said that the 88GPOS delegation was taken 30 kilometres north of the capital to meet the residents of Aungmyintha village who were forcibly relocated four years ago to make way for the controversial Chinese-backed dam project.

Though neither the 88GPOS nor the KIO chose to mention details of the Rangoon-based group’s trip to the site, Ja Khon, a local Aungmyintha villager, said the 88 Generation delegation arrived on Tuesday morning and listened to their woes.

“They [88GPOS representatives] met with more than 20 villagers at the communal house and listened to us telling them how we were relocated and lost our livelihoods,” he told DVB on Tuesday. “We also explained how we now have little access to healthcare and education.

“They promised to raise our issues with the government.”

The villagers also stressed their concerns that the dam would be resumed when the current government’s term ends.

Dau Hka, a member of the KIO’s Technical Advisory Team (TAT), said that the Kachin army did not accompany the 88GPOS to Aungmyintha, but instead spoke with the activists about the current state of affairs with regard to the ceasefire talks and peace process.

“We spoke in general terms about each other’s viewpoints and discussed means to strengthen the peace process,” he told DVB.

The 88GPOS team met later on Tuesday with members of the Peace Creation Group (PCG), which has played a mediatory role in recent talks with the central government.

PCG spokesman San Aung said, “We discussed the possibilities with regard to a successful nationwide ceasefire, and we said we expect a positive outcome from the upcoming preliminary talks ahead of the seventh round of ceasefire negotiations.

“We believe that peace will be delayed unless there is progress,” he added. “The president has suggested signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement next month on Union Day, and so we shall wait and see whether that will happen.”

South Sudan: OCHA Country-Based Pooled Funds (CBPF) 2014

7 January 2015 - 4:55pm
Source: ReliefWeb, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Jordan, Lebanon, Myanmar, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Yemen

Donor contributions are monetary donations provided by Governments and the private sector. This mechanism gives them the opportunity to pool their unearmarked contributions to a specific country. With these pooled donations, CBPFs offer rapid and flexible financing instruments to scale up humanitarian operations, increase humanitarian access, and strengthen our partnerships with local and international NGOs and UN agencies. This complements the overall humanitarian response based on affected people's needs identified under country-specific strategic response plans. The following are paid contributions and pledges received from 1 December 2013 to 1 December 2014.