Chin Hills State is probably the poorest region in Myanmar. It is also the most difficult region to live and survive. Almost all places in Chin State are mountains and hills, with no flat land; all the towns and villages are built on the mountains where it is very cold or in valleys where malaria is a serious problem. Land for cultivation is so few that the state cannot produce enough rice or food for its entire population. There is not enough jobs for the people, and thousands of Chin youths from towns like Hakha, Falam, Mindat and Kanpetlet go out of Myanmar to work as laborers in nearby countries, especially in Malaysia.
With such poor conditions, sad tales of human tragedy are not unheard of. Two years ago, I met a family of four in Chin Hills. I was working there when one day somebody told me of a child admitted to the local township hospital. He was admitted with severe pneumonia and severe malnutrition. The family cannot afford to pay for the medicine and food. They don’t have warm clothes and blankets. The father was attacked by a bear a few years ago while hunting, and become debilitated since then. They don’t have a land or a home, and lived in a pathetic shack built on the edge of somebody’s land. They survive by food and money provided by some religious organizations and individuals.
I went to see the family at the hospital and found that both of the children were severely malnourished, with a lot of skin infections. The doctor paid for their medicine while the nurses provided them with food and old clothes and blankets. The children stayed in the hospital for about a month, gained weight, skin disease better and were discharged.
I saw them quite frequently after that. I gave them some food and clothes on a few occasions. One day, I saw the family in front of my house and I took the above photo. The children looked very miserable. It was rainy season and the weather was very cold. They had barely enough clothes to cover their body properly. One passerby gave the child an apple. I felt so sorry for them, and was thinking how I could help them.
A few days later, we had a terrible rain one night. The rain was very heavy, and the wind very strong. It was also very cold. It seemed like my house was going to be blown off. Luckily, my house survive the wind and rain.
The next day, I heard terrible news. The shack the family stayed collapsed under heavy rain and wind. And the two children died of hypothermia. I felt very sorry for them. We saw them every day, everywhere, but nobody seemed to care for them, or do anything to help me, including myself.
With harsh weather, rough terrain, scarce resources and poor living conditions, such kind of sad and tragic tales are not unheard of in Chin Hills.