published in COVID-19 • War / Conflict on June 9, 2021
URGENT: your work
Front-line report following military coup and new Wave 3 COVID threat
As the ALWS family comes together to fight COVID-19 in Nepal, using a 5:1 Government Grant …
… we have also been called on to help in Myanmar.
Much of the media attention has now moved on, so there is a real danger that people suffering here will be forgotten – especially as the threat of a COVID Wave 3 looms.
You would understand the safety of our front-line partner is vital.
That’s why, given the changed rule in Myanmar, everything I share with you has been security-checked and cleared for print.
The good news is that while there are serious challenges, we also have fresh opportunities to serve.
YOUR FRONT-LINE TEAM
Our partner’s staff in front-line areas have been caught up in heavy fighting.
Like tens of thousands of other people in this community, they had to flee as Internally Displaced People (IDPs). Some have gone to neighbouring communities. Others are hiding in forests.
All staff are accounted for, but I am sad to report that three have lost family members – two because of lack of medical care, and one shot by the military.
Your prayers for safety and security are precious.
In this region (which I won’t name), our partner hopes to provide:
- plastic tarps, food packages, non-food items (the basics for life when you have lost everything), hygiene kits
- continued evacuation of staff to safe places
- support for local markets disrupted by COVID and insecurity.
Moving supplies is difficult, but our partner is negotiating with an agency seen as neutral by the authorities.
The focus here is on three townships:
This township is not under the control of the government. There is intense confl ict, and so far our partner has been unable to reach townships directly. The plan is to work through local churches to deliver help.
Largely ‘business as usual’. However, a COVID-19 Wave 3, and disruptions from the political situation, threaten the market – leaving the poorest and most vulnerable at greatest risk.
Here, there are roadblocks, and staff need to find innovative ways to continue the development people need so desperately.
THREAT OF COVID WAVE 3 – SEVERE
Reports from the front-line team you support highlight the danger that COVID-19 could get out of control – to the levels we are seeing in India and Nepal.
Your team identifies 8 reasons for this Wave 3 threat:
- the border with India remains open, so infected people can easily cross and transmit the highly-infectious variant
- after the military coup, public demonstrations have people shouting, marching close together, with few wearing masks
- little mask-wearing anywhere
- COVID-testing is at 5% of pre-Coup in January, so no one will know Wave 3 has hit, until it is too late
- public health information about COVID-19 is lacking
- nurses are striking in protest against the military coup
- health services are generally under-developed
- public officials appear not to be focused on COVID
Food is a high priority.
If people who are displaced from their homes cannot return to tend crops and livestock, food production is threatened.
Hygiene and sanitation breakdown increases the risk of deadly waterborne diseases. Already increased malaria is being reported.
Delivery of supplies is challenged by the remoteness of vulnerable communities, the risk of landmines and roadblocks, and the potential early onset of the monsoon season.
Your prayers for wisdom and a way forward are appreciated as the team you support works to find solutions.
YOUR ALWS ACTION
Thanks to the generosity of people like you, ALWS has already committed $20,000 to the crisis response.
The aim is to help 17,000 IDPs.
Many are Christians, but all are welcomed. Help is planned to be delivered through trusted local churches in this area.
(There are four Lutheran Church Synods in Myanmar, but they serve in different areas. I talked to church leaders when I last visited Myanmar, and found their passion for helping local communities – regardless of religion – humbling and inspiring.)
Our ALWS emergency help is part of a combined campaign from churches across the world.
GOOD NEWS: Australian Government 5:1 ALWS action
In all these challenges, there is good news.
Beginning 1 July, ALWS can use a 5:1 Grant from the Australian Government for your ALWS work in Myanmar. (This is part of the same 5:1 Grant you used to help in Nepal.)
ALWS has committed to raise $50,000 to match $250,000 from the Government.
(You are welcome to donate 5:1 online now, or call 1300 763 407)
Through this 5:1 Grant, you build on the current education work ALWS supports for children in Rakhine State, where Rohingya people have been displaced from their homes by conflict.
While Rakhine State suffered severe confl ict 2012 to 2017, for now it appears safe from the dangers in other parts of Myanmar.
Children are returning to school after a year of COVID lockdown, and both the community and authorities are keen for children to keep learning while they can.
Through ALWS, you support Temporary Learning Centres in 8 IDP Camps, and at public schools near IDP Camps in Sittwe and Pauktaw. Our aim is to bring together displaced Rohingya children with local Rakhine children, to help promote peace.
Your work focuses on:
- supporting children with disabilities to go to school
- making sure no child is excluded from education
- safeguarding children from danger
Let me give you a quick overview of what your 5:1 ALWS support can do for these children:
1. Children with disabilities are welcomed
- train teachers on how to include these children
- grants to build ramps and adapt toilets
- adaptive devices for extra needs
- non-formal education to help children catch up
- accelerated education so children can join mainstream
- enrolment campaign to parents of these children
- Child Clubs and Buddy System to protect against bullying
2. No child is excluded from school
Rohingya girls face being forced to drop out, and into early marriage. Rakhine boys may have to work to support family.
- provide Dignity Kits for girls for menstrual hygiene
- Girls Clubs with female mentors and role models
- Drop-In Learning Spaces for boys who must also work
- extra tuition to help boys who work to catch up
3. Every child is protected
- provide gender-segregated toilets
- train teachers to protect children from child labour
- identify services where children at risk can get help
I realise all this is a lot to take in.
However, this is your work, and you deserve to know the truth about challenges, as well as the good news about opportunities – like the 5:1 Australian Government Grant.
SHINE LIKE A STAR
For me, the importance of your work here in Myanmar is summed up by a chat I had with a leader in a camp where you support Temporary Learning Spaces. He told me:
“I want to say thank you to the donor. Before, education in the camp was weak. Now it is very much improved.
If not for the Temporary Learning Space, children could not get a quality education. They would only play on the ground.
In the future, their children too could only be illiterate.
I want to see all the children be clever, and to be an educated person. I want them to shine like the star.”
That’s what you do through ALWS.
Even in the most challenging places, like here in Myanmar, where COVID and conflict force families into crisis, you make sure no child is forgotten, so each child can ‘shine like the star’.
Thank you – you are a blessing ALWayS.
Community Action manager