Ma Mu Nar Phaw: A Mother's Inspiring Story of Courage

Ma Nu Nar Phaw being interviewed at Taunggyi Township, Shan State. © IOM 2023

Ma Mu Nar Phaw, a young mother with a family of four, was personally affected by political instability that has affected Myanmar and her hometown of Demoso, in Kayah State over the past two years. “Barely two weeks after the birth of my child, we had to flee to the forest due to the conflict. We had to keep moving for between three to four weeks.”

With support from a local woman, they eventually managed to relocate to one of the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in neighbouring Southern Shan State, where upon having a roof over their heads, Ma Mu Nar and her family felt a sense of relief.

IOM has been supporting migrants and mobile communities in the South-East, including internally displaced and vulnerable populations in Southern Shan State in response to displacement in 2022. Parami Development Network (PDN), IOM's partner in Shan, has been providing emergency assistance in the state’s various IDP camps, including food, health check-ups, medical referrals and basic medicine.

“With nothing feeling like home, I could not be more grateful for all the support we have received. My younger child has a weak immune system and gets sick frequently. The hospital is far from here, so medical referrals, medicine and food have been very helpful.”

Emergency assistance has helped to meet urgent needs, but Ma Mu Nar explained that she also feels a sense of urgency as they had heard that they can only stay in the camps for up to two years, and there is no indication that the political situation will soon stabilize. “Most of us are new to this place so we don’t really know what to do for a living and we were hoping that there would be support to find job opportunities.”

Building on some of her previous work at Demoso, Ma Mu Nar received a training on agriculture and animal husbandry from PDN, as well as small capital to utilize these skills for income generation. Having learned how to improve the soil, raising and properly caring for farm animals, Ma Mu Nar and her mother are caring for the land and bought a few pigs. “This knowledge will surely be helpful once we can go back to our home. We are now breeding pigs and are confident we’ll be able to use the proceeds to pay for my children’s medical expenses.”

While now having a degree of temporary stability, Ma Mu Nar is hoping for the difficult situation in her hometown to pass. “If Demoso becomes stable, I hope to return so that my child can receive a proper education. There are other families nearby, and we can help each other when the kids get sick. We hope to have a permanent place where we can make our living.”


*Note: The South-East is one of the areas of Myanmar most affected by the current political instability. Ma Mu Nar Phaw is one of over 34,000 internally displaced and vulnerable individuals in Southern Shan that IOM and PDN have assisted with funding support from the Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT).