CPI Mask-Making Initiative Offers Income Lifeline to Myanmar Families in Need During COVID-19 Lockdown
The front room of Hla Hla Htwe’s home in Pyapon, Ayeyarwady Region, is a hive of activity. Family members are busy cutting fabric, sewing, washing, and ironing on a makeshift production line. They are making cloth face masks to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19. “On a good day, we can produce about 100 masks,” Hla Hla Htwe says. She and her family are part of a Community Partners International (CPI) initiative to help vulnerable families and communities who have lost work due to COVID-19 to generate income through mask making.
"I don’t know what I would do without this opportunity. I was afraid that no one would help me in these hard times."
In 2018, a group of women in Myitkyina, Kachin State, Myanmar, were looking for ways to generate income to support their families and help members of their community displaced by conflict. After the breakdown of a ceasefire in 2011, Kachin State has been locked in conflict between the Myanmar Army and ethnic armed organizations. The conflict has killed thousands and more than 100,000 people currently shelter in displacement sites in Kachin and Northern Shan states. From different Kachin ethnicities, the women met through a local Baptist church and decided to pool their resources under the name “Good Mom”.
Down a dusty side street on the outskirts of Myitkyina in Kachin State, the "clack-clack" of wooden looms can be heard in the distance. Drawing closer, in a compound fenced with bamboo, a modest house with walls of woven bamboo slats and a zinc roof sits on concrete stilts. It is home to Ja Dwal Weaving.
Daw Thet Thet lives with her husband and two young daughters, a three-year-old and a baby of six months, in Hlaingtharya, a low-income suburb of Myanmar’s commercial capital, Yangon. A few months ago, Daw Thet Thet’s husband, a motorbike taxi driver, started coughing and having fever. Concerned about costs, they delayed seeking health care until the situation became serious.
Somudah and her family have been living as refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, since September 2017, after fleeing violence in Myanmar. The family is one of many thousands in Cox’s Bazar served by CPI’s Community Health Volunteer program and other services. To mark the second anniversary of the Rohingya Refugee Crisis, we spoke to Somudah about the difficulties she and her family have faced over the past two years, and her hopes for the future.