Karen activists and aid workers are trying to drum up last-minute support for a shelter of internally displaced persons, before it runs out of funding in September.
Over 70 representatives from 10 border-based Kayin (Karen) State civil society groups attended a meeting on July 30 to discuss how to keep the Ei Tu Hta shelter open.
“We agreed to urge our donors to continue their aid for the Ei Tu Hta IDPs and to assist in a rehabilitation program,” said P’doh Mahn Mahn, former secretary for the Karen National Union.
He added that an Internally Displaced Persons Supporting Committee will be established soon and will meet this month.
The July 30 coordination meeting was organized by the KNU's Hpapun District Executive Committee. In a statement released after the meeting, the participants demanded the government, the KNU Central Committee leaders and international donors handle refugees and IDPs based on assessments of current political developments, and asked that no one be resettled without prior guarantees of peace and withdrawal of military camps.
The statement also called on international donors to provide support for education, health and livelihoods at the Ei Tu Hta shelter.
At the moment, the nearly 3,000 IDPs staying at Ei Tu Hta receive only a rice subsidy. Each person under the age of six receives six kilos per month. Those above the age of 6 receive 12 kilos per month.
According to shelter leaders, Ei Tu Hta lacks medical supplies and needs a larger budget for education. All funding and support for the shelter is expected to stop in September, however, unless new donations are secured.
Around 100 IDPs from Ei Tu Hta including those from Taungoo and Nyaunglaybin in Bago Region, and Hpapun, in Kayin State, voluntarily left in June, fearing that an end to funding would mean no food supplies.
The Ei Tu Hta IDP Camp was opened as a temporary shelter in 2006 to house Karen civilians fleeing fighting between the KNU and the Tatmadaw.
The KNU signed a bilateral ceasefire in 2012, and was among the eight signatories of the nationwide ceasefire agreement in 2015.
Following the ceasefire and return of relative stability in Kayin State, pressure has mounted on displaced villagers to return home, and funding for their shelters has dried up.