That residents of refugee camps around the city of Sittwe will be trained in fire prevention and safety. We seek to make the lives of refugees as comfortable as possible, considering their difficult circumstances. We envision a Myanmar/Burma where people live in mutual respect and harmony.
Myanmar, also referred to as Burma, is one of the poorest and most ethnically-diverse countries in southeast Asia. Because of this ethnic factionalism, Myanmar has been the location of the world’s longest on-going civil war, which has now entered its 60th year. One of the consequences of the oft-forgotten war is that many people have been forced to flee from their homes and now live in refugee camps, where life is extremely difficult. The situation is exacerbated due to the reclusive nature and totalitarian habits of the government. In 2014, the United Nations announced that the on-going ethnic strife in Myanmar/Burma was the world’s “most forgotten” humanitarian crisis.
In July and October of 2012, inter-ethnic conflicts broke out in the Northwestern state of Rakhine, Burma/Myanmar. In addition to the massive destruction of land and property, the conflicts also led to the forced internal migration of nearly 140,000 people, of which, 93,800 live in refugee camps surrounding the regional capital of Sittwe. Ninety-five percent of the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) are from the Muslim community of Rohingya, with the remaining 5% being made up of Buddhists and Hindus. The refugee camps surrounding Sittwe are located in low-lying tidal flats, very close to the ocean. The entire area is exposed to seasonal typhoons and flooding. Because the inter-ethnic conflicts in Rakhine state did not subside in 2013 or 2014, the UNHCR has warned that the humanitarian crisis will only worsen, specifically in 2015, as national elections approach.
The camps contain no long-term, stable structures. All of the structures designated for IDP families are built out of bamboo. Rooves are most often made of corrugated sheet metal. The risk of a fire outbreak is extremely high.
Our aid work in the region takes many forms: we distribute aid packages, offer psychological support and assist in the organization of the camp. However, our main focus is in the education and training of camp volunteers in fire-prevention safety. Along with our partner, the Lutheran World Federation, we have been organizing a series of fire safety and prevention training seminars that have been supported by the government’s Ministry of Fire Safety. Additionally, we are working to provide the necessary fire-fighting materials to ensure that the camp community has the resources necessary to put out future fire outbreaks.
Fire prevention training lasts five days. We require that at least half of the attendees be women, due to the fact that women represent the highest percentage killed or injured during a fire. Additionally, the training improves fire safety and preventive knowledge among children. The project also educates the surrounding community so that during the event of a fire, many will be prepared to offer effective help. In 2015, it is our goal to establish 24 fire stations that will be equipped with buckets, helmets, and other necessary fire-fighting tools. There are currently only two stations in the camp.