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.
Meredith Walsh (back row, fourth from right), CPI Board Chair Dr. Tom Lee (second row, third from left) and CPI Board Member Dr. Adam Richards (second row, second from left) with CPI Bangladesh staff and Community Health Volunteers in Cox's Bazar in June 2019. Photo: Reza Shahriar Rahman for Community Partners International
Meredith Walsh, Community Partners International (CPI)’s Country Director in Bangladesh, reflects on the last 20 months working to support Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar.
I arrived in Bangladesh in early November 2017 to help Community Partners International (CPI) set up operations in Cox’s Bazar. Just over two months earlier, this small sliver of land squeezed between Rakhine State in western Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal, became the world’s largest refugee camp virtually overnight.
Ma Yin Shwe Aye lives with her husband and two daughters, aged 5 and 10, in their modest bamboo house in Kyaw Nu village, Myanmar. The village is situated in Mawlamyinegyun township of the Ayeyarwady Delta region in the southwest of Myanmar. In the dry season, when they can't collect rainwater, the family draws water from a nearby creek, but Ma Yin Shwe Aye worries that this water might not be good for her children's health. In July 2018, the family started using a new ceramic filter as part of a community-based project supported by Community Partners International (CPI). We visited the family in March 2019 to find out how they were getting on with the new water filter.
As part of efforts to combat deforestation and improve health in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Community Partners International (CPI) is working with Bangladeshi organization the Village Education Resource Center (VERC) to introduce improved cookstoves into refugee households. On December 11, 2018, the VERC-CPI Energy team organized the first public cooking competition in Camp 8E in which five contestants took up the challenge to cook the best chicken curry with rice on three different cookstove models. The competition was held to showcase the advantages of improved cookstoves and promote uptake in the Rohingya refugee community.
For the more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar sheltering in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, the simple act of cooking a meal lies at the heart of a complex web of health, safety, nutrition and environmental concerns. Community Partners International (CPI) is launching a project to bring improved cookstoves into refugee households in Cox’s Bazar to help reduce firewood consumption that drives environmental degradation and deforestation, and support efforts to decrease levels of indoor air pollution that can negatively impact people’s health.
With support from a private donor, Community Partners International (CPI) is working to support 568 households (over 2,200 people) in five villages in Mawlamyinegyun township, Ayeryawady Region, to address the challenges they face and improve their living conditions. The Better Homes Better Lives (BHBL) Project is a partnership between CPI and local partner Baythitsadarna, a community-based organization linked to a monastery in Mawlamyinegyun.