How Covid-19 and Conflict Intersect in Kachin State
Myanmar’s Northernmost region, a zone of long-term violent conflict, rising geopolitical tensions, and great natural resource wealth, has thus far been spared the worst of Covid-19, but maintaining these positives is a challenge. Livelihoods are shattered and formal negotiations between conflict parties are now on hold for the November election and subsequent government transition. Kachin State faces particular challenges associated with its long land border with China, its high population of displaced people living in over 170 camps, and recurring conflict since the breakdown of a ceasefire in 2011. The region is ground zero for geopolitical struggles and domestic debates about the influence of China. The convergence and intersection of broader foreign strategies with local conflict dynamics affect both the pandemic response and conflict resolution efforts. The major burden of assisting Kachin people has fallen on community networks and organizations. Faced with a global pandemic, these local groups run the risk of being overwhelmed. Any redirection of much-needed international development and humanitarian support away from Kachin communities could provoke further vulnerability. While addressing the impacts of the pandemic, agencies supporting the response should be alert to the risks of compromising longer-term interventions related to conflict resolution.