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Aid Access Granted for Burma's North Kachin State

A man leaps onto a truck as it forges a creek in a rural part of Burma's Kachin state, February 26, 2012.
A man leaps onto a truck as it forges a creek in a rural part of Burma's Kachin state, February 26, 2012.
Daniel Schearf

The U.N. office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Burma says the government since late March has granted it unrestricted aid deliveries to most of north Kachin State, where tens of thousands have been displaced by a military offensive.

As many as 75,000 civilians have been displaced in Kachin since fighting broke out in June between Burma’s army and Kachin rebels.

Many live in makeshift camps and are in need of food, water, shelter and medicine.

Authorities had limited access by the U.N. and other aid agencies to mainly government-controlled areas, even though most of the displaced were in rebel territory.  

But after months of negotiations, Ashok Nigam, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Burma, said the agencies have been given permission that should allow sustained access to most of Kachin.

“We have succeeded now in terms of being able to provide humanitarian assistance with the United Nations and its humanitarian partners, including international NGOs, who can now go to all areas in Kachin,” said Nigam.

Nigam said the one exception is the area around the headquarters of the rebel Kachin Independence Army in Laiza on the border with China.

He said the agencies are negotiating for access to Laiza and are hopeful they will soon be able to reach all of Kachin state.

Matthew Gray is with the French aid group Solidarites International. He said his group was granted the same access in January, but has been limited by funding.

“Now we have the access due to our negotiations at the NGOs, UN level, nationally here and internationally. But now it seems the only block is that we just need the money now to accompany this,” said Gray.

Gray said his organization provides sanitation supplies and water purification tablets to about 4,000 people. But, he said, food is running out fast and rainy season is coming so shelter may be a problem.

The U.N. was allowed two deliveries, one in December and one in March, to rebel-controlled areas.  But the supplies included only enough food to sustain a few thousand people for one month.

Nigam said his office is applying to a U.N. Central Emergency Relief Fund for $5 million to buy humanitarian supplies for Kachin. He estimates a total need of about $22 million and is calling on international donors to help make up the shortfall.


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