JOURNEY TO PALETWA
My colleague, Mr. Abraham and I began our journey to Paletwa on 15 May, 2015. We took Express Buses for our going there and coming back for the implementation of the emergency relief response for the refugees’ camps in Paletwa because of the recent war between Arakan Army and the Myanmar Army. It took us a week in order to accomplish the necessary relief for the affected families. We came back on 21 May, 2015 on Thursday from their trip.
The purpose of our journey to Paletwa was to bring some support from Asia Focus Australia and Myanmar Lutheran Church and visit the refugees’ camps and to observe the real condition of the lives of refugees at Lone Tin village and to take the photographs. On our return to Yangon from Kyauktaw, we could not get front seats due to the rush (good seats needed to be booked one week earlier). We sat at the last row of seats. Then, both of us got bus- sick. We returned home with unhealthy bodies.
EMERGENCY RELIEF RESPONSE ( 17TH MAY, 2015)
The implementation of this emergency relief response was well organized and led by two MLC staff from Yangon office and two pastors from Paletwa Myanmar Lutheran Church. By God’s grace, this relief response implementation was ended with a good impact to the affected families. This relief arm may keep them to have food security for 15 days depending on the number of the families.
FUNDS RECEIVED FOR RELIEF RESPONSE
The relief response was supported by Asia Focus Australia (835,000 MMK) and from Myanmar Lutheran Church (515,000 MMK) for a total of 1,350,000 MMK
44 rice bags were bought on the boat for the emergency relief response to the refugees at Lone Tin village on 17th May, 2015. The relief implementation and its activities were carried out after Sunday worship service at Paletwa Lutheran Church.
The main line rice and other materials for the people in Paletwa are imported from Rakhine State, but the Myanmar Army is now strongly prohibiting exports from Kyauktaw (Rakhine State). It is so difficult now for the people in Paletwa to get enough goods for their markets and for consumption. The customers said that only 5 bags of rice are allowed to be bought for one person at one time. Therefore, one bag of rice cost 25,000 MMK at this time.
The owner of the boat informed us that the cost of rice and other goods will be increasing next month due to the rules and regulations of the state government authorities. As it is rainy season in Myanmar, it is also difficult for the people to find food.
44 bags of rice purchased for the 22 families of more vulnerable refugees (555,000 MMK)
Supported cash to 49 families (800,000 MMK)
Total Expenses: 1,350,000 MMK
TARGET AREA OF THIS RELIEF RESPONSE
The name of our target area is called Lone Tin village where the refugees from Pyaing Soe village temporarily settled there because the political crisis. The total number of affected households is 71; and there are 376 persons. Indeed, it has mainly two religions such as Christianity and Buddhism.
The people sowed the rice and other seasonal vegetables and crops in their farms in this year. They depended on their farms to sustain food security and general income for their families. However, the farmlands were unattended because the fear of the civil war that they encountered.
HOW WE HANDLE THE RELIEF RESPONSE
As we have prayed and asked God for the direction to do the selection of the more needy families at Lone Tin village, there was no problem during the relief implementation. Indeed, there were 71 families and 376 persons at the refugees’ camps. As for us, we really wish to distribute 2 bags of rice to all. But, the limit of the fund, we selected 22 families/ out of 71 households to give 2 bags of rice and each of 49 families were given 16,326.53 MMK.
Each of 22 families was supported with 2 bags of rice and each of 49 families was given 16,326.53 MMK through this relief response supported by Asia Focus Australia and Myanmar Lutheran Church.
ENCOURAGEMENT AND SAYING THE WORD OF THANKS
All families were so thankful to God and to Asia Focus Australia and Myanmar Lutheran Church for this unexpected rice distribution and small money for them. Rev. James San Aung prayed for the opening program of relief response implementation. A short program was led by Rev. Philip Aung Hawi. Short sharing times for the beneficiaries were given.
One of women from this group wept during her sharing time out of happiness for a wonderful relief response. She said that it was unexpected rice distribution for each of the refugees in Lone Tin village. She told us that each of the parents really could not think how to get food and some money for their family. Indeed, it was a hard time for the children to get into the schools at this time.
THE PRESENT CONDITION OF THE REFUGEES
The refugees live under the temporary tents which cannot protect the storm or the strong wind. Every day, they fear of the storms because it is the rainy season. It is so difficult for them to get the bamboos leaves for roofing. So, they made it with plastic roofs which were supported by some organizations. It makes their lives hard to have a convenient life. They said that under the Sun they feel so hot and under the rainy they face difficulty for sleeping at night again.
Though the Myanmar Authority from Paletwa forced the refugees to return to their village by 23 May, 2015 yet it is so hard to decide for them to obey the commands of the authority. They know that Pyaing Soe village is no longer safe for their relocation because of the occupation of Arakan Army. The Myanmar Army said that their village is safe for them to return. However, it is not true again when we heard the actual information from the local people. Even the Myanmar Armies themselves fear to stay at this village in their army camps. They always want to stay closely with the people. One of local people said that they always sleep under the people’s houses at night. It means that it is not safe for the refugees to relocate there again.
Therefore, the Village Tract Administrator from Kuan Chaungwa village tracts said that we would not be able to return to our village at least one year. He continued saying that it was so hard for our people to live under the voice of bullets and wars. Therefore, we will not return to our village even though we are forced by the Myanmar Authority. I will stand with my people always. Thus, he also expressed his highest thanks to Asia Focus Australia and Myanmar Lutheran Church for this rice distribution for the refugees.
On 14th May, 2015, Rev. Haggai Aung Than, Dean of Paletwa Myanmar Lutheran Church reported to Bishop Dr. Andrew Mang Lone that the Administrator from Kuan Chuangwa village Tract had reported to the Myanmar Army force in Paletwa that they will not go back to Pyaing Soe village in this year.
THE REAL NEEDS FOR THE AFFECTED FAMILIES
(a) Education for the schooling children:
It has been a great challenge for both you and us. The children are already grown up, but they could not have a time for studies. It is very good to take note in our mind for the future lives of the children. Let us take a great chance to help them more.
They do not know how to write and read well now. They have to stop their studies in half way now. The financial needs for the schooling students are very important again. The lives of many children are in miserable now because of the civil wars.
(b) Food Security and Clothing:
As the rice has been our main food for the families, it is very important to continue our support for them. Indeed, there are many needs for the affected families. Myanmar Lutheran Church distributed one bag of clothes especially for the women. By visiting the camps, the great need of clothes for the children, adult and elderly people are found out.
(c) Health Care:
Health care is a very important factor for the lives of refugees at Lone Tin village where there is no health care is available for the sick and weak persons.
EVALUATION ON THE EMERGENCY RELIEF RESPONSE
In summary, in fact, this emergency relief response was ended with a successful implementation because of good leadership, unity and good efforts of the leaders and the volunteers. It is hoped that this emergency relief may sustain at least 15 days of food security for the families.
Mr. Abraham Tay Zar Aung, the office staff of Myanmar Lutheran Church from Yangon office actively worked for taking the documentation of this emergency relief response to 71 households and 376 persons. His good work was appreciated too.
OUR NEXT PRAYER REQUEST
As we have shared with you the situation and conditions of the people at the Refugees’ camps in Paletwa, there are many kinds of needs for the affected families. Therefore, we want to appeal you, Asia Focus Australia to intercede for the needs of this people.
Please kindly share this need to other related humanitarian agencies to be able to provide the necessary development programs (education, health care, food security, etc...) for them. Indeed, your generous support and good efforts to the refugees at Lone Tin village in Paletwa Township is highly appreciated.
May the abundant blessings of God pour upon the ministries of Asia Focus Australia in order to support the needs of Global missions of the churches and community developments to extend His Kingdom forever and ever! Amen.
Rev. James San Aung
Mission Director Myanmar Lutheran Church Yangon