“The number of IDPs has increased. The number of displaced families without food has significantly increased as a result of low aid.  There are displaced families who are starving. As the IDPs are starving, they go from house to house in the village to receive donations. They have to rely on it.” Ma Hnin Thazin Hlaing – Vice-Chair of Ponnagyun Youths Association

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An interview with Ma Hnin Thazin Hlaing, Vice-Chair of Ponnagyun Youths Association, who is providing aid on the ground, about the situation of the IDPs.

According to the UNOCHA Myanmar, the total number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Arakan State has reached more than 300,000, and the need for humanitarian aid is at its worst.

There are more than 30,000 IDPs in Ponnagyun Township, which is the closest to the capital city, Sittwe. The IDPs are taking shelter in makeshift huts made of straw on the side of the road and at the foot of the mountain.

The IDPs get little help from NGO/INGOs and are facing food and shelter difficulties. They bear the brunt of commodity shortages and record-high commodity prices.

Development Media Group (DMG) interviewed Ma Hnin Thazin Hlaing, Vice-Chair of Ponnagyun Youths Association, who is currently working on the ground to provide aid to the IDPs, about the situation of the IDPs.

Q: What are the current urgent needs of IDPs?

A: At the moment, the IDPs are in urgent need of rations, sanitary pads for women, nutritious foods for children, vaccines for pregnant women and tarpaulins for the rainy season.

Q: What about the aid program? Do the IDPs get aid?

A: The IDPs get aid. Arakan CSOs sometimes provide aid. This is not a regular monthly program. The NGOs and INGOs that provided aid in the past, have completely disappeared. Currently, there are only two NGOs/INGOs which are providing aid left on the ground. However, it can’t fully satisfy the needs of IDPs. There are some IDPs who don’t get any aid at all.

Q: So, how are the IDPs solving food shortage problem?

A: The number of IDPs has been on the rise. The number of displaced families without food has significantly increased as a result of low aid.  There are displaced families who are starving. As the IDPs are starving, they go from house to house in the village to receive donations. They have to rely on it.”

Q: In recent days, strong winds and rain hit the township. Can you tell us how the IDPs faced difficulties at that time?

A: There are more than 30,000 IDPs in Ponnagyun Township. Most of them live in huts next to the road. Some IDPs have to sleep under mosquito nets in bushes without building huts. In this situation, rain made life very difficult. There is no place to cook their meals. There is no place to sleep. I had to move from one place to another. They did not eat their meals as all rations were wet. They were in big trouble as the mothers of the children had to run and take shelter in a sheltered place. Everything is a challenge for them.

Q: We have heard that Ponnagyun Youths Association is organizing a campaign on the supply of tarpaulins. Let us know about that situation.

A: The purpose of this campaign is to provide tarpaulins during this rehabilitation period for those whose homes were burnt to ashes in Ponnagyun. Now the current situation does not allow the people to collect timber and nipa palm leaves. The move is to ensure that displaced families can live safely and comfortably during the rainy season. It mainly aims to help those whose homes were burnt to ashes, in downtown and villages such as Yeyoepyin and Khamaungtaw villages. It also aims to help those who lost their homes in Pauktaw and Minbya Townships. At the moment, it is not as possible as we previously thought, because there are still few people who support our association. So, we still need a lot of donations from home and abroad.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add about the IDPs issue?

A: We don’t know when the displaced people will be able to return home. Therefore, the first thing they need to do is to stay in suitable places for a long time. They have lost their homes and been away from their sons and daughters. They are facing all kinds of difficulties.  The needs for the IDPs are high on the agenda. It would be better if we could get tarpaulin rolls before the rainy season and get cash assistance to build temporary huts. Otherwise, it will become very difficult for the IDPs during the rainy season.

Sent by Aung Htein (DMG)

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