After decades of conflict and neglect, many communities in southeast Burma/Myanmar are deeply impoverished and struggle with extremely poor situations in relation to health, education and livelihoods.
Access to social services, justice and protection is also very challenging and an estimated 400,000 people remain internally displaced in the wide area with a population of some 11 million, according to TBC research.
Together with civil society organisation partners, TBC has conducted work and research in conflict-affected parts of southeast Myanmar for decades.
More recently, it opened offices in Loikaw in Karenni/Kayah State and in Hpa-An in Karen/Kayin State in addition to its office in Yangon, in order to support programmes in the southeast.
TBC’s work focuses on supporting the recovery of conflict-affected communities, improving their socio-economic situations and building preparedness for the potential return and integration of displaced communities.
It supports community-driven recovery and development initiatives, mainly through partners, in Karen/Kayin, Karenni/Kayah, and Mon states and Tenasserim/Tanintharyi Region.
Typical projects have included the building of key community infrastructure such as water supply systems and sanitation facilities.
Repair of irrigation canals for agriculture, improving or launching rice banks and supporting animal husbandry help support improved livelihoods in vulnerable communities.
Community forestry and micro-hydro power initiatives also help families in remote areas to sustain themselves.
Relatively small initiatives can make important impacts on villagers’ quality of life, the approach shows.
For example, residents of a village in Karen/Kayin State who experienced regular distress as a result of periodic rice shortages were greatly assisted when the community was supported to build a rice bank.
In a village in Karenni State, improvements to the quality of the village water supply are helping reduce child illness and health costs.
Research on customary land use is helping promote justice and equity for farming and other communities experiencing land insecurity.
During the first half of 2017, village development committees in Karenni/Kayah State successfully completed 12 projects based on community participatory assessments and plans, including water supply systems, village halls and rice banks.
Mushroom cultivation, soil conservation and organic farming trainings were held in parts of Karen state.
Over the years TBC and its partners have also assisted vulnerable communities experiencing food shocks due to conflict or natural hazards.
In 2016 cash transfers for three months rice supply supported the resilience of people in 75 villages of Karenni/Kayin State after many were displace due to conflicts between the Border Guard Force (BGF) and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA).
In early 2017, critical food shortages due to rat and pest infestation were alleviated through cash assistance to cover people in 40 villages in Hpapun and Myawaddy townships.
TBC’s programme also works to build confidence between border-based TBC partners and local partners in each region, and to broaden civil society engagement in political dialogue, ceasefire monitoring and peace building.
Much of this work is built on relationships built between TBC and its civil society partner organisations who have cooperated to document the characteristics of internal displacement and conditions in southeast Burma/Myanmar since 2002.
Data collected in the last comprehensive report included township-level estimates of IDP populations, while household- and village-level surveys of poverty have also described the characteristics of vulnerability and resilience in areas the international community has had difficulty accessing. The data remains the main source of information on conflict-affected communities in the region.