The Refugee Crisis
In the fall of 2012, inter-ethnic conflicts broke out in Rakhine State in Myanmar, also known as Burma. The violence, along with massive destruction of land and property, forced approximately 140,000 people to flee their homes. 95% of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) are Rohingya, a Muslim minority group in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya population has been desperately seeking asylum in order to escape persecution. Recently, thousands of Rohingya were stranded at sea aboard overcrowded and rickety boats, often without food or water, because neighboring countries were unwilling to take them in.
Now the government, which has isolated the Rohingya, denied its members citizenship rights, sent them to refugee camps, stood by as they have been targets of ethnic violence, and has made clear that they want them out of the country.
Our Work in Myanmar
Fires in Myanmar refugee camps have killed and injured hundreds and left thousands homeless. The risk of fire is extremely high. Our program empowers residents and keeps them safe. We are also distributing aid kits containing essential non-food items and providing psychosocial support.
In collaboration with Lutheran World Federation, we organized a series of fire safety trainings in 14 IDP camps. After taking the training, volunteers raise awareness among camp residents about fire hazards and how they can work to prevent them. The volunteers do daily safety patrols and are instrumental in keeping the camps safe, where over 100,000 people currently live. Fire safety points have also been built, which have drums of water and fire-fighting equipment.
Story From the Field
Mang Tin and his six children live in Thea Chaung refugee camp. Before fleeing his home, Mang owned a small animal feed shop. He became a trained fire-safety volunteer in the camp for Lutheran World Federation Myanmar in June 2014. Mang took a fire safety training seminar where he learned life-saving techniques, such as how to prevent and respond to a fire. “People realize the importance of fire prevention. Fires spread quickly here because our dwellings are made of bamboo and dried leaves,” he said.
Camp residents have an intense fear of fire since many of their homes were destroyed during inter-communal violence in 2012. When asked why he decided to enroll in the fire safety and prevention training, he answered: “I myself am a victim of arson. I know what it feels like to lose everything. I know what victims go through.” Mang’s house was set ablaze during these conflicts. And like many others, his eyes have a faraway expression as he recounts the night he lost everything. Mang was most impressed by the various life-saving techniques volunteers were taught in the training. He finds some comfort in knowing that if a fire does break-out, he is prepared to help.