IDPs in Kachin State Reliant On WFP Stipends Struggle Amid Banking Restrictions

By Network Media Group
Saturday, June 11, 2021

Thousands of villagers living at internally displaced person (IDP) camps in Kachin State have not had regular access to financial assistance being provided by World Food Program (WFP) since the military took over the country four months ago. Because of banking restrictions that limit withdrawals, Kachin IDPs cannot get their monthly stipends on time.

“We are struggling for food,” said a woman who lives at KBC IDP camp in Momauk Township. She said because WFP only provides 11,000 kyat ($7) per person every month, when the money doesn’t arrive, they go hungry.

A camp official told NMG they received their April stipend in May but are still waiting for their May funds. “For residents who are not working outside of the camp they are having a hard time. If the situation continues, our church leaders will provide rice.”

A woman in a KBC camp in Waingmaw Township doesn’t understand why her stipend is always late. She told NMG she sometimes receives funds for two months at the same time.

To protect assets, banks in Burma introduced restrictions on withdrawals after the coup preventing customers from withdrawing more than 500,000 ($304) kyat a week. Additionally, clients need to book an appointment to withdraw money. Private money transfer companies like Wave Money, TrueMoney, KPAY and AYA PAY have stopped providing services.

Some IDPs are borrowing money and eating only rice with salt.

“The prices of vegetables have gone up. The cost of everything has increased. We aren’t allowed to take daily employment so it is very tough,” the woman from Waingmaw told NMG.

Since the pandemic started last year, IDPs are not allowed to officially work outside the camp.

Meanwhile, fighting between Kachin Independence Organisation/Army and the military has increased after the coup, leading to thousands of new IDPs. The conflict, which started on June 9, 2011, recently passed its tenth year.

According to Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), clashes in Kachin and northern Shan states displaced well over 120,000 people since 2011.