April 12, 2021
Chin News National

Amid COVID-19 fear, internally displaced families brace for monsoon season in Sami camps

Hundreds of families who are sheltering in makeshift tents in temporary camps in Sami after being displaced by recent fighting between the Arakan Army (AA) and Burmese military in southern Chin State’s Paletwa Township, are bracing for the fast-approaching monsoon season.

The communities are completely defenseless against an outbreak of any kind of seasonal communicable diseases, much less such highly contagious viral disease as COVID-19.

Salai Sang Hnin Lian, CHRO

“While the primary concern continues to be access to steady source of food supply for the nearly 3000 people, there are other equally worrying issues with how and where they will cook and how they will stay dry during the wet season,” says CHRO, which returns from an assessment trip to the area this week.

CHRO team member Salai Sang Hnin Lian told Chinland Guardian, “The communities are completely defenseless against an outbreak of any kind of seasonal communicable diseases, much less such highly contagious viral disease as COVID-19.”

According to CHRO, the lack of access to clean water and firewood for cooking is seriously compromising the ability of hundreds of families to survive in the squalid conditions in the camps.

Families typically cook their daily meal outside of their tents and huts

Up to now, the families have used twigs, tree stumps and bamboos for cooking in open spaces outside of their plastic tents. But with the onset of monsoon season, there will be even more limited supplies of dry wood and having a dry space for cooking their daily meals will pose a difficult challenge for the families who are now completely reliant on food aid provided by local and international humanitarian groups. Further complicating their predicaments is the restriction of movement, which prohibits going outside of the town’s limits for families to gather firewood in the nearby forests to be able to stock up on enough cooking fuels to last them through the wet season.

A shoot on sight order is in effect for anyone wandering or going outside of the town’s parameter without prior authorization. On Monday, May 16, one man was killed and seven others injured in a road accident when a truck they were riding in overturned near Sami while en route to a nearby village to fetch firewood for the camps.

As many as half of the 3000 displaced people now living in Sami are sheltered in makeshift tents made of plastic sheets, while half of them are cramped up in local churches and school buildings. For most family, they are relying on a nearby stream for their daily use for cooking and washing. However, rain will soon muddy the stream and access to clean water will be a major issue.

Makeshift camps like this are constructed in about nine different places in open spaces in Sami Town

Those living in the makeshift plastic tents are sleeping in an elevated platform made of bamboos and up to 15 people of extended families are cramped in a space meant for one family. Without proper drainage system around the camps, the dirt floors are likely to get flooded with heavy rains, which will further exposes the occupants to common diseases. Residents of Sami Town, numbering only about 800 households or roughly 3000 population, are struggling to make their own ends meet as they have been overwhelmed with hosting as many as nearly 3000 people who have sought sanctuary from fighting that have escalated since the beginning of the year.#

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