April 13, 2021
Articles Chin News

Scars of war: Mental health for IDPs cause for concern

The five-year-long conflicts between Myanmar’s Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army (AA), which have intensified in recent months, have caused serious mental stress among some of the most vulnerable demographics: women, children and the elderly, according to a volunteer social worker who spent time with internally-displaced persons.

A Khumi community volunteer who spoke to Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) on condition of anonimity, said that he had observed some serious signs of psychological trauma among children and elderly at IDP camps in Sami, Paletwa and other places.

“I am deeply disturbed to see a lack of any socio-psychological support available for [the victims].

Khumi volunteer social worker

“I have been to these places more than three times and seen children crying when they see new strange faces and hear loud noises. This is a very worrying sign for the psychological well-being of the children. Similarly, I have seen elderly people being mentally depressed and physically very frail,” said the volunteer, who recently returned from a trip to IPD camps in southern Chin State.

File picture: A mother and baby at the first IDP camp from Pyin Soe Village (CHRO-2015)

The volunteer social worker continued, “Women, particularly those mothers who had lost their children in the violence are struggling to cope with the mental trauma of having lost everything they own, their homes, their livelihood, community and even their children to a war that they have little or nothing to do with,” adding that he is deeply disturbed to see a lack of any socio-psychological support available for them.

The conflicts in southern Chin State have seen heavy fighting in the last two months, where dozens of civilian deaths and injuries have been blamed on indiscriminate airstrikes by the Tatamadaw on civilian polulated areas.

The large-scale civilian casualties prompted 139 organizations and one individual across the world to issue a joint statement calling for an immediate end to the fighting.

The statement, issued on April 15, said: “The Myanmar military has been deliberately targeting civilians through the use of airstrikes from fighter jets. On 7 April 2020, airstrikes on the village of Hnang Chaung Village, Paletwa Township, in Chin State by two Myanmar military fighter jets killed seven people, injuring eight more and burning several houses to the ground.”

“Among the victims were two children, a mother and a baby. This was the second airstrike within one week, as more civilians were injured during an attack on Bawngwa Village on 31 March. Last month, on 14 and 15 of March, multiple attacks on several villages in Paletwa Township killed 21 civilians, again including children” added the joint statement.

A public health worker based in Hakha who was asked to comment on the situation said, “We urgently need people with special expertise to intervene to help these victims to overcome their psychological stresses, and it would take time and specific processes to get them back to normal state.”

Fresh fighting between Arakan Army and Tatmadaw has sent more civilians fleeing their villages last week. As many as over 11,000 people, including women and children, are known to be taking shelter in nine different locations inside Paletwa Township.#

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