Urgent appeal for Burma/Myanmar Karen Women’s Organisation
Dear sisters and friends,
Burma/Myanmar: Urgent Appeal for Donations
We wrote to you at the end of last year asking for donations for the Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) in Burma/Myanmar.
We enclose below a report from KWO about their survival work, saving the lives of people fleeing bombing and repression. The population is as determined as ever to continue the resistance against the military takeover.
It is now one year since the military seized power and arrested the elected members of the government. Millions of people came out to protest, risking their lives and their livelihoods. A general strike of 400,000 civil servants and others is ongoing. The army and police have responded to these continued peaceful protests with shooting into the crowds, bombing villages, mass arrests, rape and other torture. Thousands of people have been killed and arrested. Over 300,000 have been forced to flee their homes and are hiding in the jungle. The courage and resilience of this mass movement has been extraordinary.
KWO is the long-established women’s organization which has worked for decades to ensure the survival of people in the Karen area. KWO is now also providing direct help to many thousands of refugees and people from the cities who have escaped the repression there. KWO is a member of the Women League of Burma which provides support for women of all ethnic groups.
You’ll see from the enclosed report that KWO focusses particularly on women and children. KWO is urgently asking for donations to provide food, sleeping mats, mosquito netting, birthing supplies, and basic medicines.
The Global Women’s Strike has met KWO and we are confident that it is best placed to ensure that all aid reaches those who need it most. We have pledged to make a regular monthly donation so that KWO can better plan what help it provides. Any support you can give will help – both one-off donations and a monthly commitment if you are able.
Thank you for your help and support,
We have reached a sad moment, the one year anniversary of the Burmese military coup. First and most importantly, we would like to thank you for your support during these difficult 12 months. You can see what your contributions supported here. We are deeply grateful, as are all of our community.
The Burma Army is continuing its attacks against civilians all over Burma, and especially in the ethnic States, and Karen State. KWO has worked tirelessly with other community groups to provide humanitarian assistance to those fleeing the violence.
We have successfully provided emergency assistance to over 80,000 displaced people in areas in Karen State, and along the border with Thailand. This was mostly food, but also included supplies for building temporary shelters, bedding, drinking water, hygiene items, medicines, and support packs for the most vulnerable. As is to be expected in a conflict situation, conditions in many parts of Karen State are very dangerous, are changing quickly, are fluid and evolving, and are messy. Nonetheless local civil society groups like KWO are functioning. In Karen State in particular, these are conditions our people have faced many times for generations. However, it is difficult for local organisations who are providing assistance to communicate with communities on the run, for those communities to be safe, to get away from Burma Army, for us and other community leaders to assess needs and respond, to count people and materials, and to transport supplies.
We need continued support to do this work and deliver assistance. If you can contribute again, please click here: DONATE HERE .
The human rights situation on the ground in Burma has continued to deteriorate as the junta has spread violence and terror. They have scaled up attacks in ethnic states, including Karen State where civilians have been targeted. In December 2021 the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project reported that since Burma’s military launched its coup on 1 Feb 2021, conflict has escalated to staggering levels, as compared to other conflict zones in the world. During the period 1 Feb–26 Nov 2021, armed clashes and attacks on civilians in Burma were only slightly fewer than in Syria but greater than in Afghanistan and Yemen. There were 6,675 armed clashes and attacks on civilians in Burma. These took place in every state and region, as well as in the capital, Naypyidaw. Many thousands of people have been displaced. Pro-democracy activists, peaceful protesters, elected members of Parliament, journalists, members of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), healthworkers, labour unionists, anyone providing aid or assistance, and the ethnic peoples, continue to be targeted, hunted, arrested, tortured, attacked and killed. Activists continue to flee towns and seek refuge in the ethnic areas, or across borders, but nowhere is really safe. Due to the widespread violence, and deliberate mismanagement of national infrastructures by the Junta, Burma is experiencing political, economic and humanitarian crises. By December 2021, the estimated total of internally displaced people in Karen State is 111,600.
“We were in hiding for many days. Then some local leaders found us and gave us some food and materials we really needed. It made us feel so good that we were not forgotten, that we were not alone in our troubles. I don’t know how long we will have to stay here.” IDP
The combined efforts of KWO and the civil society groups we work with have provided emergency humanitarian assistance to more than 80,000 people from February to December. We have found ways to carefully access to IDPs, to transport urgently needed food and materials, and to distribute it safely, or to set up distribution points that IDPs can access. Many IDPs walked many kilometers from their hiding places to these secret distribution points to pick up food and materials.
In addition to the coordinated effort, KWO is also providing direct support to ensure the special needs of women, children, and the most vulnerable people displaced are not overlooked. Hundreds of women community leaders in KWO at all levels, living at central, or district, township, village tract, and in villages, have been working tirelessly to identify needs, and deliver assistance. We have distributed thousands of sacks of rice and packs of dry food for families or for vulnerable individuals. For IDPs affected by the recent attacks of the Burma Army near the Thai border KWO cooked, packed and distributed 1,500 cooked meals to those people in urgent circumstances with no food, or no pots, or in places too unsafe to make a fire. We’ve done a lot of carrying, packing, counting, cooking and distributing.
“We ran from that place so fast when we heard that soldiers were coming. We did not expect them. We didn’t carry any cooking pots or food. There was no time. After one day of not eating, we didn’t know what to do. But then suddenly some Karen people came and gave us cooked food to eat. We were so happy and grateful to get it!” IDP family from recent air strike site.
KWO provided support with a focus on women, children and the most vulnerable in the communities. The special needs of these groups are often overlooked in emergencies, so this is a particular area of focus for KWO. The sick, people with disabilities, pregnant women, women giving birth or breastfeeding, the elderly. We have provided them with food packs, hygiene items, including sanitary pads, and clothes. We also respond to broader community needs, like Rice Banks, if no other group is able to do so in time. KWO directly supports patients injured or in critical conditions who need help to be referred to hospitals and we have been collaborating with local health stakeholders and clinics.
“I can put a lot of things in the backpack they gave me. I can pack that bag and be ready to run next time we are attacked. It is easier for me to carry it, and run with it. I don’t think I will have chance to use it for going to school but I hope I can one day.” IDP teenager.
“I only ran with the clothes I was wearing. Then I was in the forest many days only like that with some other families. A KWO leader came and gave me a pack with some soap, and some clothes and shoes and other things I needed. I was so happy when I received her help. I feel safer now and more free.” IDP young woman.
This assistance has saved many lives and prevented further harm.
Please donate if you can, Donate Here
“I received a food pack. It’s good for me. I felt weak from walking and trying to run. We cannot find this kind of food in the forest. This food makes me feel stronger and braver.” IDP elderly woman.
The real solution is an end to the Junta and its violence. We need democracy and respect for human rights in our country. While we are providing assistance, we are also deeply involved in advocacy. KWO leaders met with relevant stakeholders including journalists, humanitarian agencies, embassies, parliamentarians and others to brief them on the situation, sharing the information we gather every day. Journalists inside Burma are being targeted by the Junta and international media are banned or arrested. Internet and phone signals are interrupted or cut off by the Junta. It is more and more difficult to get information out about what the junta and military is doing although some communication is still possible. KWO continues to use our voice to inform local, national, and international communities and call for action to resist the coup and not to give recognition or resources to the Burmese military and the junta’s “State Administration Council” (SAC).
If you want more news about Burma, please check in with these news sites and social media:
· AAPP (Assistance Association for Political Prisoners): https://aappb.org/
· Aljazeera (select their Myanmar reports) https://www.aljazeera.com/asia-pacific/
· ALTSEAN: see Altsean Burma monthly briefing papers, thematic trackers etc. Lots of good detailed updates and analysis here. https://www.altsean.org/
· Karen Information Center: https://karennews.org/
· Myanmar Now: https://www.myanmar-now.org/en
· National Unity Government (NUG) Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/NUGmyanmar
· Progressive Voice: https://progressivevoicemyanmar.org/
· SAC-M Special Advisory Council Myanmar: https://specialadvisorycouncil.org/
· Salween Press: https://www.facebook.com/Salweenpress
“The assistance we got for making a shelter in the forest helped us not to get sick. Our family never had a tarpaulin before but we had seen them. Usually we make our homes with bamboo and the roof with leaves which takes time. This tarpaulin is good, and we can fold it up and carry it if we have to run again to another place. We can set it up quickly too. It’s not good for a permanent house, but for emergency it is really useful. We thank you for your kindness to us.” IDP Husband and Wife.