When the gunmen attacked the village where Sitnoupan’s parents lived, her mother was only five months pregnant with her. Their home was burnt to the ground and their animals were slaughtered. Forced to leave, they took very few possessions with them and fled to the jungle where they hid for months. Without even access to plastic sheeting, they made rudimentary shelters of banana leaves and foraged for food. On hearing about a camp in Myitkyina, a city in northern Myanmar, they walked for days with other families from other villages. However, on the outskirts of the town they were stopped by the military and sent back to the jungle. Two days later they tried again, this time under the cover of darkness. They successfully arrived at the camp in December 2012. Sitnoupan was born the following month.
Dr Alison Ashlin (UK), ShelterBox Operations Coordinator and Response Team (SRT) member, said: ‘We met Sitnoupan’s family last weekend where they were living in a communal shelter, with no privacy along with 16 other families. Lying on a mat, the mother was suffering from a fever, whilst the father was caring for the two-month-old baby. It is shocking to think that these are the lucky ones, because there are many more families still hiding in the jungle, and the rainy season is just a month away.’
‘A consignment of ShelterBoxes has arrived in country,’ added SRT member Sallie Buck (UK). ‘We have had extensive consultations with humanitarian actors in Yangon, bilateral meetings with the United Nations in Myitkyina, and detailed needs assessments conducted by field officers from the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED) in Kachin, to ensure this aid will reach other vulnerable families.’
The Kachin conflict in the north-east has displaced tens of thousands of people and is one of many collectively referred to as the Burmese Civil War. Fighting between the Kachin Independence Army and Myanmar Army restarted in June 2011 after a 17-year-old ceasefire broke down and continued throughout last year.