Over December and January we’ve been hard at work serving remote communities in southern Chin and northern Rakhine States.
Our team have had the privilege to visit many remote tribes who rarely receive visitors or support from outside their own communities.
Over the next few days and weeks we’ll be sharing some of the stories and photographs of this work.
Today’s news post covers our visit to the Laymyochin.
Our three main areas of practical focus were:
- Distributing medicines to our Community Health Workers
- Running free clinics in the villages
- Distributing food relief
However, our team soon realised, that while our focus on health, education and food security were important, the biggest impact the work was having was in the hearts of the people.
For many of us reading this post, having somebody tell us that we are loved, having someone to care for us, or even someone to simply ask us ‘how are you?’ is a regular and daily occurrence. But for many of the villagers we met, even the gentle, sincere, caring question, ‘how are you?’ is a rare occurrence.
Many remote tribes in this area live in constant fear of outsiders who threaten to take their land. They have been told by others that the reason they are sick is because they are poor, dirty and worthless. They have been denied recognition of their own identity, through the rejection of their language and culture… they are seen as the last and the least in the worlds’ eyes.
But we had the privilege of being welcomed into their communities, the joy of feasting together even with the little that we had, and the opportunity to share their pain and suffering. Most importantly, all that we shared, we shared as equals, valuing every moment of their warm hospitality.
Food aid transported to villagers in need in Chin State
The Health and Hope teams have been working incredibly hard to transport over 25,000kg of food aid in very challenging road and weather conditions into Chin State.
Many volunteers have helped with the distribution of food aid which must be kept dry from continuing rains and moved between storage locations until it can be distributed to villagers in need.
We are really proud and thankful of the hard work of our team and volunteers who have supported these efforts and who have assisted particularly with the transport and carrying of heavy rice bags long distances to reach those in need.
We are continuing to undertake damage assessment work across Rakhine and Chin state and have already distributed evaluation forms to over 300 villages in Rakhine State alone. This data will be compiled in mid-late September to provide a comprehensive needs asessment for the region.
Recent flood waters have had a devastating impact on communities in both Chin and Rakhine States. One month before the rice was due to be harvested, crops have been destroyed, transport links have been washed away and many houses and buildings have been damaged.
In and around Lailenpi, roads and bridges that provided critical transport links to the border for food and supplies have been washed away in the floods, and paddy fields are covered with thick mud. For many of the villages where our Community Health Workers are based, there is an immediate and ongoing need for food assistance, due to the damage caused to agriculture and the loss of livestock.
To date, international NGOs and foreign governments have given over $2.3 million of aid. However, only 435,000 people out of the 1.3 Million affected have received food supplies. Moreover, none of this support has been able, or indeed is likely to reach the areas served by Health and Hope.
We have therefore developed a response which is local and long term, focused on:
Phase 1: Providing emergency food aid to rural villages
This week we have been undertaking advocacy in Yangon, to make international agencies aware of the situation of villages in the remote rural areas of Chin and Rahkine States and encouraging them to direct aid to the most needy areas. However, our experience of large scale aid given by agencies during the Matwa Famine (2008-2013), was that their use of logistical routes from inside Yangon, left many villagers without support.
As such, in the last two weeks, Health and Hope have secured the support of the local government in Mizoram State of India, who have worked to rebuild roads to the Chin State border, enabling us to purchase and transport 1,500 bags of rice (weighing 50kg each) into the most affected regions.
Each bag of rice costs £20 to purchase and transport and provides enough food for a family of four to survive for one month. Working with our team on the ground and a support network of local churches and our established Community Health Workers, we are able to access villagers in the most remote areas. Can you help us to expand our response to reach more families in need?
Phase 2: Disaster Needs Assessment
Hand-in-hand with the Mara Evangelical Church and working as part of a consortium of local NGOs and Churches, we are undertaking a needs assessment over the coming 2-3 weeks, in order to gather data from the region. This will be collated and reviewed by our team in Yangon and a coordinated local response developed to address food insecurity, health needs and livelihood development.
Following the needs assessment, a third phase will be planned and communicated which will look at addressing the medium to long term needs of people in our homeland. We expect that the trust built with communities over the last seven years, and our network of over 900 Community Health Workers and Traditional Birth Attendants, will prove invaluable in reaching out to villagers affected by the flooding.
What can you do to help?
To help villagers affected by the flooding, please consider donating a one off or monthly gift via to directly support our ongoing and life saving work in the region.
The Prince of Wales becomes Royal Patron of Health and Hope
Health and Hope is delighted to announce that His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales has agreed to become its Patron.
The announcement comes after a meeting at the end of 2014 between HRH, The Prince of Wales, and Dr. Sasa, the visionary founder of Health and Hope (in Burma), himself from one of the villages but trained as a medical doctor. Speaking about the support from HRH, Dr. Sasa said “we are so very moved, humbled and overjoyed that The Prince of Wales would take an interest in our work. It is hard to explain how much this support will encourage and bring hope to our people that someone so important from so far away cares about them.”
Dr. Andrew Murray, Chair of Health and Hope (in the UK) said “it is a huge honour to have The Prince of Wales as our Patron. We are very grateful for his support and believe that it will be of great assistance, including raising the profile of the huge need in these remote villages and the transformational work being led by Dr Sasa's Health and Hope team. Dr Sasa returned to Chin State incredibly excited at being able to tell his people that although others might have neglected them, The Prince of Wales is concerned about them and wants to help support them.”
Health and Hope is a partnership between Health and Hope UK and Health and Hope Myanmar. Health and Hope UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England under Company No. 08290412 and Charity No. 1151105. Health and Hope Myanmar is registered in Myanmar under NGO Registration No. 0264.