Monday, May 20, 2024

Civilians Scavenge for Food as Supply Routes Cut Between Karenni and Shan States

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The recent food blockades enforced by the ruling State Administration Council (SAC) between Karenni and southern Shan states have left civilians affected by the war searching for wild jungle vegetables to supplement their diet.

“It’s extremely challenging to transport food rations. All the regular roads have been closed due to the ongoing clashes,” stated a man assisting displaced populations in Paikhun Township in southern Shan State.

He explained that the only alternative route is also blocked by the Pa-O National Army (PNA), now acting as a proxy force for SAC. Soldiers from the PNA demand money and do not allow rice or cooking oil to pass through their checkpoints, the man explained. They do permit fuel if the taxes are paid.

In Paikhun Township, around 7,000 people have been affected by the conflict in the region bordering Karenni State. The man mentioned they can only provide them with 200 bags of rice every month. At this point, the displaced populations are sharing whatever rice they have left.

As donations have decreased, the number of people in need in Mongpai (aka Mobye) and Paikhun (aka Pekon) in southern Shan State and Loikaw, Hpasaung, Demoso, Hpruso townships in Karenni State have increased, especially after the SAC troops launched a large offensive during the summer in a failed effort to regain lost territories in Karenni State.

Although some can find day work, most of the villagers displaced from fighting with no regular income are compelled to depend on donations for their survival.

IDPs especially women and children along the Karenni Shan State border
IDPs especially women and children along the Karenni Shan State border.

“If we run out of rice, we have to ask for more from the camp committee. Sometimes we can get emergency aid, but it’s just for emergencies, and we can only receive 1 or 2 baskets per person,” said an anonymous volunteer from Demoso Township in Karenni State.

A man from Mongpai, requesting anonymity, mentioned they desperately need aid. “We cannot go to work on our farm located in the lower part of the Mongpai dam because SAC often attacks the area with artillery,” he said. However, the source believed others are able to grow paddy in certain areas of Paikhun.

According to locals, inflation has driven up the costs of essential items. A bag of Shwebo Pawsanmwe rice now sells for 100,000 kyat ($48) and a single egg costs 400 kyat.

The Progressive Karenni People’s Force (PKPF), which is a civilian watchdog group, reported people are grappling with severe food shortages. Many are suffering from malnutrition and illnesses. Adding to the crisis, the camps are facing a severe shortage of medicine. Regrettably, this has believed to have resulted in the loss of 142 lives across Karenni State during the more than two years since the military coup.

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