DMG Newsroom
7 August 2021, Sittwe

Buddhist nuns at nunneries in the Arakan State capital Sittwe are facing difficulties with food and medical costs during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Daw Sarana Theingi, an assistant lecturer at Kyar Yoke Nunnery in Sittwe’s Kyaung Tet Lan ward, told DMG that the nuns there face livelihood hardships as they are currently unable to collect alms.

“The nuns used to collect rice on the day before Sabbath day. Each nun could collect some rice and 5,000 kyats. The nuns are now barred from going out to collect rice due to the virus outbreak. In the past, rice was consumed in a week or two because of general expenses. We have to ask for money and rice from some well-wishers, donors and monks,” the nun explained.

Daw Sarana Theingi added that some of the nunnery’s 18 nuns are elderly and worried about healthcare costs, fearful that contracting Covid-19 would make their precarious medical situation worse.

“We don’t want to ask for help from the well-wishers anymore. We do not know when the Covid-19 pandemic will end, so we are worried about how to survive in the long run,” she said.

Similarly, nuns at Ammayarma Nunnery in Kyaung Tet Lan ward also face livelihood difficulties as they are prohibited from leaving the compound to collect rice, according to Daw Pyinnyar Devi.

“We cannot go outside to collect rice due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and all groceries and shops selling rice are closed. So we have to eat what alms we have. Well-wishers donate a small amount of money to us so we ask for help from our families,” Daw Pyinnyar Devi said.

The nuns said they also wanted the relevant authorities to help address their plight.

The combined Arakan State death toll during the first and second waves of Covid-19 was 37, with the third-wave fatalities increasing by a factor of more than seven to date. The rise of the highly contagious Delta variant has contributed to the dramatic increase in cases and deaths during the ongoing third wave, prompting greater concern about the potential for the virus spreading via the door-to-door alms collecting that is critical to nunneries’ livelihoods.

There are three nunneries in the Arakan State capital, which house about 300 Buddhist nuns in total.

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