Fire destroys more than 100 homes in Kachin refugee camp

Shing Chyai Kachin IDP camp was destroyed by fire on Dec. 29, 2014. Photo: Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC)

A massive fire destroyed over 100 houses and supplies of food aid at the Shing Chyai Kachin Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in eastern Kachin state's Sadung township on December 29th. The camp located in Raw Bum division was home to about 180 refugees families displaced by the ongoing conflict in Kachin state. The camp is based in government controlled territory very near to an area controlled by the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO).

The fire which burned for nearly 2 hours began at 10 pm and managed to consume most of the temporary shelters in the camp and the camp church. It is believed that the fire was started by some form of electrical problem, a camp resident told the Kachin News Group (KNG).

Although much of the camp now lies in ruins there were no injuries or deaths. The refugees face severe difficulties however as winter in this part of Kachin state near the Chinese border is pretty cold. Aid workers tell KNG that the refugees desperately need warm clothes, food and materials to rebuild the temporary shelters.

Camp residents have relied on food aid from the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) as international aid agencies have worked with the largest faith based organization in Kachin state to distribute food to this camp and others located in government controlled territory.

Government blockade of aid to refugee camps in KIO area continues

The Kachin Independence Organisation's chief spokesperson Lah Nan has criticised the Burma army for creating a situation where there is a serious level food insecurity in refugee camps located in KIO territory. The government and the army continue to block the United Nations (UN) from sending food aid convoys to camps in KIO territory. It remains unclear when the food aid shipments will be allowed to continue. No UN aid convoys have been allowed to proceed to KIO territory since September.

The United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) announced in December that it was hoping to send food aid to the camps but was still waiting for permission to do so from government authorities.

The blocking of food and other humanitarian aid to the refugee camps in KIO territory is expected to cause serious hardship as existing food supplies run out.