Myanmar: The mother who challenges fear every day

  • Raising three young girls as a single mother in conflict-ridden Kachin State of Myanmar is feat enough to make Aye Aye Win look like a hero. But there’s even more to her story that draws our admiration. Though her life was altered severely by a landmine injury, Aye Aye Win refuses to wallow in despair, especially since her little girls adore her to bits.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Hla Yamin Eain
  • Aye Aye Win is a picture of resilience as she talks about her life and how it changed one rainy afternoon. “I don’t blame anyone for what happened to me,” she says.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Hla Yamin Eain
  • But she has clear memory of the day she lost a limb. Aye Aye Win and her daughter were out in the familiar mountains of Kachin state that she has called home for 20 years now. As always, she was keenly looking out for vegetables and bamboo shoots that she could collect to feed her family.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Hla Yamin Eain
  • “As I walked along the path, an unusual bamboo branch hanging off the tree caught my eye. For a second I hesitated and thought of just going back to the route I usually took. But then I overcame that doubt and went ahead and cut off the hanging branch. That’s when it exploded,” she explains.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Hla Yamin Eain
  • There was no one around so Aye Aye Win pulled herself together and limped along with her 14-year-old daughter through the mountains, trying to get to a place where they could call out for help.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Hla Yamin Eain
  • They came to a point where they had to cross a dam to get on to the road. As the waters gushed out around them, the mother and daughter held on to each other and for their life. Aye Aye Win feared that the strong current would sweep away her child so she shouted out to her to let go and save herself.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Hla Yamin Eain
  • But her daughter refused and cried, “Please don’t give up. You have the three of us. How are we supposed to survive without you?” Struggling for some more time, Aye Aye Win used all her might and managed to pull herself out of the water and on to the road where she finally shouted for help.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Hla Yamin Eain
  • She was taken to Myitkyina hospital, where her right leg was amputated. We also gave her cash assistance that she used to purchase food for her children. Aye Aye Win is registered to receive prosthetics and physiotherapy support, which the ICRC will provide through its physical rehabilitation centre in Myitkyina.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Hla Yamin Eain
  • Her brooding eyes may seem gloomy, but her spirit is not broken. She says she will stay strong for her daughters.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Hla Yamin Eain
  • Aye Aye Win says she prays for two things, her daughters’ education and for others to be safe. “I do not fear for myself. But sometimes I get worried about whether I will be able to support my children’s education. I’m not going to give up… I will keep supporting them till they are well educated. Other than that, I get worried about other civilians being injured. I really don’t want anyone else to go through what I did. That’s what I pray for,” she says.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Hla Yamin Eain
  • Aye Aye Win is among the many who are suffering the effects of an ongoing conflict in Kachin State. In the midst of prolonged fighting, more than 100,000 people have been repeatedly forced to flee for refuge. Adding to the humanitarian crisis, many people are injured by landmines and unexploded ordnance as they go about their daily routine of collecting vegetables from the forest or herding cows.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Hla Yamin Eain
17 December 2018

Myanmar remains heavily contaminated by anti-personnel landmines, particularly in Kachin, Shan and Kayin States. The ICRC, together with the Myanmar Red Cross Society and other partners, carries out many activities to spread information on mine-related risks in affected areas. People are trained to identify dangerous zones and given guidelines to avoid accidents.