This project was started in December 2012 and is helping 1343 conflict-affected individuals to rebuild and rehabilitate their lives in 9 villages of Dawei and Myeik Districts in Tanintharyi Region, under Karen National Union (KNU) control.
Project Background: The momentum of the Kyaukkyi Pilot Project in Bago Region, and positive engagement by the Karen National Union, encouraged the Myanmar Peace Support Initiative (MPSI) to explore the possibility to implement similar action in other KNU areas. In response, a series of consultative workshops in Dawei was attended by representatives from Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People (CIDKP), KNU Liaison Office in Dawei, Karen Development Network (KDN – a Yangon-based Karen CBO) and local faith based organisations. During the initial workshop, key Karen stakeholders learned about MPSI’s peace support approach and how to conduct to a needs assessment in conflict-affected areas. This workshop was unprecedented, as it was the first time that KNU/CIDKP visited Dawei town and engaged constructively with civil society networks operating ‘inside’ Burma/Myanmar, apart from for the opening of the KNU Liaison Office.
The second workshop reconvened all the stakeholders to review the findings of the needs assessment conducted in conflict-affected villages of Dawei (8 villages) and Myeik (1 village) Districts. Primary, the findings showed that the communities from both project areas expressed a desire for their security and peace. The communities also faced high levels of food insecurity due to forced displacement, and lack of knowledge and skills related to sustainable farming practices and other means of livelihoods. There were also great needs with regard to education and water/sanitation. Not least, the assessment revealed that due to displacement and the oppressive situation that people have been living under, there have been limited opportunities for the community members to come together to analyse their situation and collectively work for change.
After reviewing the findings, the workshop participants from the various Karen organisations decided to create a new organisation: the Tanintharyi Karen Peace Support Initiative (TKPSI) to respond to the communities’ articulated needs. Norwegian People’s Aid was asked, and responded affirmatively, to providing technical support in designing and implementing the project.
- Providing nutritional support (1343 villagers)
- Distributing non-food items for household and livelihood support
- Raising awareness to encourage parents to send their children to school (134 villagers)
- Distributing school kits to children (234) & supplementing teacher salaries (4 teachers)
- Incentivising children to attend school through awards presentations and sporting games events (174 children)
- Forming and training Water and Sanitation Committees
- Constructing village level water supply systems (1343 villagers)
- Constructing fly proof latrines for households (1343 villagers)
- Holding township level peace awareness meetings (74 villagers)
- Conducing community psychosocial support meetings and awareness raising (150 villagers)
- Attending peace building training (30 project staff)
Results and outcomes:
- In Myeik District (Palaw Township), conflict-affected persons’ confidence in the peace process is increasing as evidenced by some persons taking a voluntary decision to return to their original villages (from which they were forced to flee in 1997).
- The space for civil society organisations seems to be widening. In response to conflict-affected person’ interest in obtaining national registration cards, revealed during a community forum organised by TKPSI, the Norwegian Refugee Council went to meet with the community and discuss this matter further.
- Households’ food security improved after receiving comprehensive food packages, including rice, cooking oil, salt, fish paste and beans before the start of rainy season, when households face food shortages. Initially, there were delays in the distribution process in Myeik District due to difficulties in transportation across the rough terrain, segmented by several creeks. As a testament to conflict-affected persons’ increasing trust in the ceasefire, they volunteered their time and labour to clear a road and construct 7 small bridges to their once hiding place.
- Households’ living standards improved after receiving essential non-food item packages including longyis and other family clothing, a blanket, 4 soap bars per person, a mosquito net, a water proof tarpaulin, agricultural tools, a knife and four liters of diesel.
- TKPSI conducted awareness-raising sessions aimed at encouraging parents to send their children to school and to promote education as a community objective.
- Financial burdens of parents were eased because the project supplemented primary teachers’ salaries during 2012-2013 school year.
- TKPSI organised community-wide School Fun Days presenting awards to children that have performed well and holding games and competitions at end of 2012-2013 school year.
- Water and Sanitation Committees were formed and trained in both project areas.
- In a village of Dawei District, a community well was dug improving the households’ access to water.
- TKPSI staffs are better skilled at informing community members about the peace process proceedings during the Township Level Peace Meetings, after attending a weeklong peace building training, organised by Norwegian People’s Aid, in cooperation with Shalom Foundation.
Additional expected results and outcomes:
- TKPSI is to provide school kits to all students before the start of 2013-2014 school year.
- In Myeik/Palaw area, households’ access to water will improve after construction of water supply systems. During project implementation, the villagers from Myeik District have expressed an intention to move back to their original village due to their increasing confidence in the ceasefire. Therefore, the location of water and sanitation support is likely to be revised according to where households will actually be located.
- Households’ hygiene practices improve following the construction of fly-proof latrines.
- The communities have some ‘mental tools’ to cope with the past traumas and anxieties about the future after attending community psychosocial support meetings.
Letter from Saw Taw Koh, Thar Mel Plaw Village, Palaw Township:
My name is Saw Taw Koh, within 20 years; we have cross our lives hardly. My leg was cut off by bomb while I was forced to follow Burmese soldier as a porter during the fighting.
Since then, I could not work very well and I’m always in sick all the time. My wife and I, Naw Tee Kok, we had no child even we stay together 20 years. She was always sick and she can’t work very well also.
Living in the mist of fighting and our lives become worse and worse, hiding in the jungle, life is so disappointing and sometime I want to end my life. In 2011 we heard the KNU and the Burmese solider make ceasefire and they would not be fighting anymore. So I’m so happy, I think I can go here and there freely. I want to work because my needs to get well with medical treatment.
In 2012 December, we heard that people from Norway will help us. We were so happy for that good news. In 2012, the good news that we heard really become true for us. Our village leaders talk about that we will be albe to resettle in our original village soon. I thought, now this times me and my wife we will restart our lives with the help of our leaders, our friends, our donors.
On March 2013, we saw that a lot of rice bags, blankets, mosquito nets, shower soaps, cooking oil, agriculture tools, a lot of things I never see before were brought to Thar Mel Plaw. How wonderful is God? He saves us, He really save us. I dare not dream it such a big blessing but now that blessing really reach to our home. I couldn’t find enough words to express my thanks.
Now we could live peacefully, we have sound sleep at nighttime and have enough food in day time. No more fighting, no need to flee in the jungle. We want this peace to last. We don’t want to flee again.
To all those who help us, we have nothing to show our gratitude to you but we pray that may the Lord be with you and protect you from all harmful and my your lives be prosperous till the end.
With endless thanks,
Saw Tow Koh