First the Rain and Now the Cold: Displaced Karen Villagers in Urgent Need of Warm Clothing and Medicine

The 80,000 villagers recently displaced by the Burma Army in northern Karen State are now exposed and vulnerable to winter cold. The displaced Karen villagers have just managed to survive the daily downpours of the monsoon season in porous temporary shelters, dengue fever, malaria, and respiratory illnesses.

The mountain areas of Northern Karen State can get cold, close to freezing in high places once the cold weather sets in. When the Burma Army attacked their villages people fled with only what they could carry –cooking pots, food stores or blankets or clothing were left behind. The villagers are now in urgent need of warm clothes and medicines. A community worker helping to deliver aid to the displaced people told Karen News seasonal flu and other respiratory illnesses are now on the increase.

Naw K’nay Paw, general secretary of the Karen Women Organization (KWO) said the cold weather will cause problems for the displaced people. She said the KWO are supporting displaced villagers with blankets, but it was not enough for all of the 80,000 displaced people.

“It’s getting cold now. We are providing support that includes blankets, but we just don’t have enough to give to everyone. It is so hard now for displaced villagers living in temporary shelters – they don’t have enough blankets and clothes to keep warm.”

The displaced villagers found shelter in the Karen National Union (KNU) controlled areas of Mutraw (Papun) District, Kler Lwee Htoo (Nyaunglebin) District as well as areas close to the border with Karenni State.

A report published in November this year by the Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN) report estimated there were as many as 82,220 people displaced in Mutraw District, as a result of Burma Army ground and air attacks. The Burma military used artillery shells in targeted attacks on villages beginning in late March.

The Burma Army is still active in the district and villagers have told Karen News they are too afraid to go back to their homes because of the fighting and landmines.

Naw K’nyaw Paw said the displaced people are now in need of urgent medical supplies as well as warm clothing, especially for the young and old.

“The change of seasons has brought new concerns, not only the flu, but malaria, dysentery and bronchitis are all common. In some areas, if the displaced people have symptoms similar to COVID-19, there is no way to test. Villagers are relying on herbal and traditional medicine to treat illnesses. It is important to keep immune systems working and keeping warm by having clothes and blankets will help. People are now coping with the cold by using open fires and the sun to keep themselves warm as there are not enough warm clothes and blankets for everyone.”

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