In October 2011, Oo Eain, her husband, Mine Tun Aye, and their one year-old son, Mine Aung Kyaw, were forced to abandon their home, their farm and almost all their possessions when their small village in Kachin State, Myanmar, became a battleground between the military and ethnic armed groups.
They fled through fields and forests before finding sanctuary first in a monastery and later in Namh Khan camp for displaced people in neighbouring Shan State. The camp provides a temporary home for some of the thousands of people displaced by conflict in this part of Myanmar.
Oo Eain describes running a small grocery shop and raising chickens in her village, while her husband farmed two acres of paddy fields. Life in the camp is very different: her husband usually gets the chance to work just a couple of days a month as a labourer, for which he earns about €3 per day. For Oo Eain, although her chickens are gone, her entrepreneurial spirit remains strong: she sells groceries to other families in the camp, and makes a small profit.
Since their arrival in Namh Khan, the biggest event for the family was the birth of a daughter, Lwe Aye Hnin Wai, ten months ago. Everyone is in good health, but Oo Eain says that food is the family’s main priority: “So long as we have rice, we can manage. When we have rice in our house (…) we housewives don’t worry. We can think of the curries and other foods later. Rice is the most important thing.”
With funding from the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO), WFP can also provide her family with a monthly cash grant of approximately €20. Oo Eain normally spends this on vegetables, enough meat or fish for one dinner per week, and some fruit and eggs for her children. She says that little remains at the end of the month for her savings or to increase the turnover of her mini-grocery shop.
When asked what the family meal means to her, Oo Eain replies: “It’s like a village meeting for our community. In our family, meal time is the only time of day when we’re all together. Also, in the future, the kids should have that habit, to have a sense of unity. I hope when they are a bit bigger we can talk about different things. For now, we mostly spend time persuading them to eat the right foods. They like snacks more than rice, so I have to explain: ‘Son, if you eat this potato, you will get strong. If you have these beans, you will grow up. If you eat your spinach, you will stay healthy.’ They need to be convinced!”
Oo Eain’s hope for the future is that her husband will be able to return to work on their farm. With some savings, she can then start a small business nearer the town, where her children can get a better education than in the village. For now, WFP aims to make sure that a lack of food affects neither her family, nor hinders her ambitions.