Food shortages feared in Tonzang Township: Interview with Mungte

Monday, 10 August 2015 10:10 Written by  Chinland Guardian
Published in Interviews

Food shortages feared in Tonzang Township: Interview with Mungte

10 August 2015: Tonzang is one of the nine townships in Chin State seriously affected by landslides and flash floods caused by recent heavy rains. However, the humanitarian situation in the State’s western part still remains under-reported because of limited communication facilities and road destruction.

Mungte, a Tonzang resident and leading community member who has been actively involved in helping the victims, talked with the Chinland Guardian about updates on the ground.

Chinland Guardian: We have not heard much about the situation in Tonzang township. Tell us more about it.
Mungte: Tonzang is affected by flash floods which swept away many bridges, including the major one over Manipur river. Therefore, Tonzang will be isolated until temporary bridges are constructed. The estimated time to restore transportation to Tonzang is one month. People started buying basic commodities soon after they had heard about the destruction of bridges. So, rice and fuel have been out of stock. Consequently, low income families are most affected as they cannot afford to purchase in large quantities.

The main water pipe to the town was also destroyed by landslides and rain water has become the primary water source.

Old Nakzang village was badly hit. It lost 24 out of 29 houses in the village to flash floods. All paddy fields were destroyed and covered by sand and rock. It will not be possible for the villagers to use their paddy fields again. The majority of the village, including children, has moved to Lungtak village for shelter and food. They will need to find another location to build a new village. About 120 people are in urgent need of drinking water, shelter and food. Local donors are reaching them but only when the stream can be traversed.

New Nakzang village lost five houses and paddy fields to flash floods. Children will not be able to go to school until a new bridge is constructed as the school is situated on the other side of Manipur river. They are also in urgent need of drinking water.

Khamzang village and Takzang village will have to be relocated because of the landslides. The villagers are currently staying at the nearby villages of Lungtak, Phaitu and Salzang for shelter and food.

Chinland Guardian: We are aware that it is not easy to get accurate data and information because of communication problems. But can you update us on the amount of damage and the number of people affected as far as you can?
Mungte: At least 100 households are affected and nearly 500 people are displaced in four villages. According to the Tonzang Township General Administration Department, flash floods affected 28 houses, 90 households and 594 people, and destroyed 20 bridges, 16 roads (accessible by car and bike) and 1,003.30 acres of paddy fields; and landslides damaged 62 houses.

Chinland Guardian: How are the victims taken care of? What about women and children? And do they receive any assistance?
Mungte: Affected people are generally given temporary shelter at school and church buildings. No other site arranged for rescue camps has been found.

Food items and drinking water have been supplied to affected villages by various local donors through individual contribution. However, the minimum requirements are not met.

Children are still going to schools in nearby villages where they are given shelter.

Chinland Guardian: Have you received any humanitarian assistance from the authorities or any organizations?
Mungte: Ar Yone Oo, a non-governmental social development organization, provided rice, oil and chickpeas for affected villages. It is so far the most active organization that has taken immediate action toward helping the victims.

Donated rice from Ar Yone Oo and religious organizations are distributed in town under the management of the General Administration Department.

People will run out of food and drinking water in a few days if the main roads and bridges are not reconstructed soon.

Chinland Guardian: So, people are running out of basic needs?
Mungte: Yes, rice cannot be purchased in town and it is heard that donors are trying to send rice bags to Tonzang. However, it still depends on the road situation – in order to get humanitarian aid to Tonzang.

Chinland Guardian: What are the urgent needs of the people?
Mungte: 1. Rice 2. Food items 3. Aqua tab, water purification substances and sanitation aids 4. Latrine 5. First Aid kits and essential medical supplies, and 6. Shelter support

Chinland Guardian: What would you suggest I do if I want to make donations or help victims in Tonzang?
Mungte: The first priority is food items, water and sanitation supports. You should contact local civil society organizations and Ar Yone Oo. The second is construction materials for affected villages.

For giving any help or support, please contact the following:

Sister Thawn Niang, Roman Catholic Church in Tonzang on 0947173021, 0973203137
Khup Bawi, Ar Yone Oo, on 0949581841
Tonzang Township General Administration Department on 0947172040
Chinland Guardian: Share with us the overall situation.
Mungte: Overall, we might say that Tonzang is less damaged than any other townships in Chin State. But communication and transportation are significantly more difficult. Limited communication channels have left the township mute until now. Cell phones used are MPT 450 MHz, through which there can be no internet access. There are no public internet shops. And as yet, there is no media run by local groups or associations.

Soon after the heavy monsoon rain, known as cyclone ‘Komen’, had hit Chin State, landslides and flash floods swept away major transportation routes including bridges, hence blocking the roads to Tonzang. There will be shortages of food and drinking water in a few days if there is no humanitarian aid or support from inside and outside Myanmar. We need you and Tonzang needs your support.

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