Food crisis reported in two states

May 5, 2009 (DVB), A United Nations body has begun to establish aid programmes for villages in Burma's Chin state to tackle the ongoing famine there, whilst a human rights group has issued a report about a serious food crisis in Karen state.

Chin state in northwest Burma has been suffering from famine since 2007. The trigger was the mass flowering of bamboo, which occurs roughly every fifty years, and attracts hordes of rats which feed on bamboo seeds before moving on to crops and stored grains.

Now, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will hand out rice to nine villages in Matupi township, Chin state.

Similarly, the World Food Programme has launched a "Food plus Cash for Work" assistance program in six townships, focusing on developing food security in the area through agricultural land development, road construction, and projects earmarked by the communities.

Meanwhile, a report released last week by the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) highlighted the food crisis in Burma's eastern Karen state, which is reported as being a direct result of excessive military demands in the area.

Government troops in Karen state are encouraged to be 'self-sufficient'.

Villagers' food stocks are often destroyed or confiscated by the army, and restrictions of movement prevent villagers from buying supplies.

The current economic crisis, along with the rising food prices and climate change, add to the problem, KHRG reports.

In both states, people are reported to be suffering from malnutrition and potentially fatal as a result of food shortages.

Reporting by Beth Macdonald and Rosalie Smith

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