Thailand: Jesuit Refugee Service to support displaced students get back to school

06 January 2014

Students enjoy their recess time in a camp school, which was mercifully unaffected by the fire. During the dry season, the forested hillsides and bamboo and palm thatch buildings of the camp can be highly flammable. Authorities are encouraging camp residents to be extra vigilant to try and prevent fire incidents for the rest of the season. (JRSAP)

The fire incident took place in the afternoon of December 28, 2013.  The cause of the fire is still unclear.  The emergency response phase was coordinated by the Ministry of Interior (MOI) local district officials, Royal Thai Army, UNHCR, Karenni Refugee Committee (KnRC), Camp Committee Management personnel (CMP) and NGOs, including JRS.

Sadly, one elderly lady died during the incident.  The JRS Pastoral Team has visited her family to offer condolences and support if necessary.  Two cases of minor injuries during the fire were reported by the IRC Health Medical Team.  Those affected have received treatment.

One hundred and one adults and children were displaced by the blaze.  Immediately after the fire they were housed at the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR) Offices in Section 4 of the Camp.  They have been provided with mats and blankets by COERR, the Camp Committee and the governor of Mae Hong Son. The Red Cross also distributed rice, canned goods, cooking oil, slippers, and liquid soap.  The JRS Team have also given out used warm clothes.  For the first three days, food was provided by The Border Consortium (TBC) and nearby Thai villagers, and different community based Organisations took turns to prepare food for the victims.  Affected families have moved to the homes of relatives or other community members until their homes can be reconstructed.

Another seventy-two people will continue to live in damaged homes until reconstruction takes place.  These dwellings have undergone temporary repairs, the materials for which have been provided by UNHCR. In total, twenty houses and one Karenni Youth Organisation  office were destroyed and a further thirteen homes were dismantled to prevent the spread of the fire.  The Police investigation into the cause of the blaze has been completed, though no results have been announced yet. Clearing of the land for reconstruction will take place on January 6 by residents of Section 2 and house owners. On January 7, three persons from each section and the Thai army will give support in clearing the land.

As the sector lead for education, JRS is working with the Karenni Education Department (KnED) to provide the learning needs of twenty-nine students affected by the fire.  Replacement notebooks, pens, pencils, bags, clothes and slippers, have all been received from generous donors.

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