International Rescue Committee (IRC)

IRC steps up aid in fire-ravaged Thailand refugee camp

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BANGKOK, Thailand - To prevent an outbreak of disease, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is providing desperately-needed drinking water to residents in the fire-ravaged Ban Mae Surin camp on the Thailand-Myanmar border. 
The March 22 fire, which killed 37 people and injured more than 200, left the camp without a functioning water system. It also destroyed hundreds of thatched huts, leaving some 2,300 people homeless, most of whom are now staying with other refugees or in makeshift tent shelters. 
“Restoring access to clean water is paramount to prevent diarrhea and other diseases from spreading,” said Christine Petrie, director of IRC programs in Thailand. “In record time, we have managed to replace damaged water pipes and set up emergency taps where people can collect water. So many refugees have helped us with the work, despite the loss and trauma they have suffered.” 
Petrie said that IRC teams also test the water quality throughout each day to ensure no pathogens make their way into the main water source. These teams also treat the water with chlorine so that it’s safe for drinking, cooking and bathing.
latrines built by the IRC in Ban Mae Surin refugee camp after the Mar. 22 fire

To prevent an outbreak of disease, IRC teams are ensuring camp residents have clean water as well as new latrines to replace those lost in the fire.

Photo: IRC

Along with Thai authorities, the IRC has arranged for heavy equipment to remove an enormous amount of household rubbish and waste from the charred camp.  We have also quickly constructed portable latrines for some 900 refugees who are still without proper shelter.  
Meanwhile, several refugees with burn wounds and fractures have been transported to nearby Thai hospitals where the IRC is organizing treatment. Nine patients are still in burn units, with one 13-year-old boy in a critical condition, Petrie said. 
Along with our partner, the Karenni Health Department, the IRC has set up a temporary health facility to replace the camp clinic that was razed by the fire.
“While the situation is slowly getting under control, much more remains to be done, Petrie said. “The IRC lost its entire health infrastructure in the blaze. It’s going to take a huge amount of staff time and resources to help the refugee community recover from this tragedy.”
The Ban Mae Surin camp, located in a densely forested area in northwest Thailand, is home to some 3,500 ethnic Karen refugees who have fled ethnic conflict in neighboring Myanmar. 

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