Tarpaulins help shelter families from the worst of the monsoon rains. © Thang Khan Sian Khai / ICRC

Myanmar: Communities in north Shan State face conflicts new and old

Article 28 June 2022 Myanmar

Nang Khin Shwe dreams of becoming a nurse one day. A couple of years ago, she took part in an auxiliary midwife training in her northern Shan State village to move one step closer to that dream.

"I always wanted to become a nurse or work in a medical field," she says. But when intense clashes broke out in Kyaukme Township, Nang Khin Shwe's family had to leave their home behind, like many others.

Displaced communities in Kyaukme Township and other parts of northern Shan State remain vulnerable to the dual threat of ongoing clashes and COVID-19. "My family and I have been here for more than seven months now," says Nang Khin Shwe, who is living in a displacement camp in Kyaukme Township.

Despite the challenges, she has been looking after her community, especially the elderly, children and pregnant women. "When someone is ill in the camp, I try my best to provide basic health care," says Nang Khin Shwe. "I mainly provide maternal care to pregnant women in the camp. I've helped six pregnant women deliver children." She refers those with serious illnesses or medical conditions to Kyaukme District Hospital, where they can receive proper medical care.

"We have been facing many challenges since October 2021, when we had to flee," says Nang Khin Shwe. Living in a temporary shelter, some of these challenges include heavy rain in the monsoon season, dry heat in summer and freezing cold in winter. "When it rains, the water drips down from the tarpaulin," she says, concerned about the rainy season.

The leader of the camp where Nang Khin Shwe is staying knows that everybody wants to return home. "But we have not had the opportunity yet. Our camp is in a little isolated location on the outskirts of Kyaukme town. The focus has been more on people displaced in southern Shan State. We get forgotten," he says.

As days go by, communities seek solutions to ensure access to food and livelihood, as daily life continues in the camp. "Most of the men and women in the camp try to get work for daily wages in nearby villages," says Nang Khin Shwe. "But they don't get paid much, only about five thousand kyat a day." In these challenging times, that amount often only lasts a day.

Beyond providing medical care, Nang Khin Shwe also teaches the Shan language to children in the camp. "I want the children here to have an education and learn both Myanmar and Shan languages," she says.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), together with the Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS), recently distributed essential items to help communities face these challenges and cover their basic needs. Our work continues – serving those most in need, from all communities.