Despite its impressive agricultural potential, Myanmar’s extraordinarily diverse population suffers from pronounced food insecurity. Its history is plagued with a poor economy and devastating natural disasters that have resulted in rampant underdevelopment and poverty. Most recently, in early May, 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck the nation and directly and drastically affected nearly 13 million people.
The destruction caused by Nargis is particularly evident in the border areas of Myanmar, where a large proportion of the inhabitants are of minority ethnic groups. Minorities in Myanmar are subject to especially harsh regulations by the government, and face dramatic obstacles to both trade and movement. Many families lost all of their farming assets in the cyclone, along with their houses and food stores – and are thus without any of the capital necessary to purchase seeds, agricultural tools, or livestock.
WFP immediately intervened with emergency assistance following Nargis, and its efforts have been ongoing. After providing emergency rations, WFP began implementing programs to build on community assets for future growth and to prevent the nutritional weakening of the already struggling population. To continue its operations, and to expand the reach of mother/child health, school meals, food for work, and food for training programs, WFP needs your help. With the assistance of generous individuals like you, WFP will be able to help the millions of families trying to rebuild their lives after the destruction of Nargis. Thank you for your support!
Myint Myint San has started to rebuild her life. She has set up a tiny shop at the front of the temporary shack she and her husband built of tarpaulin and salvaged timber. However, she does not yet make enough money to provide for their basic needs, and she relies on the World Food Program (WFP) food rations to survive.
Myint Myint San is not alone. She, like millions of other people in Myanmar, saw their homes destroyed, farmland inundated with water and their survival threatened after Cyclone Nargis struck the country in May 2008. Over 10 million people were forced to immediately rely on WFP’s emergency assistance for survival.
Effects of the cyclone continue today since so many families lost all their farming assets as well as their houses and food stores. The affected poor families were left without the capital to purchase seeds and other agricultural inputs, tools and livestock.
In a country that suffers from rampant poverty, the enduring effects of the cyclone have pushed many families deeper into the cycle of poverty. The cyclone only adds to the critical effects Myanmar’s people suffer from: a high infant mortality rate and 32 percent of its children under five suffering from undernourishment.
The World Food Program’s operations have helped improved food security through activities such as Food For Work and Food For Training, aimed at building community capacities. WFP is also working to improve children’s education through increased enrollment and attendance in primary schools as well as improved nutrition among children and mothers. WFP’s operations are vital for recovering families’ livelihoods and have played an important role in helping the country to rebuild.
Thanks to WFP’s assistance, Myint Myint San and millions of other people in Myanmar affected by the cyclone have started to rebuild their lives. However, they still depend on WFP operations for survival. WFP’s operations still require considerable financial assistance to adequately serve all those in need. It is individuals like you, with the desire to help millions of families affected by natural disasters, who make their hope for survival possible. Thank you.
Khin Myint, a grandmother in her 60s, used to live in a small house in the village of Myanmar called Thama Thuka with her son, his wife and several grandchildren. The adult members of the household worked as day laborers, helping out on fishing boats and occasionally doing some fishing of their own. But when Cyclone Nargis hit in May, their lives changed overnight. They emerged from their refuge in the community’s sole pagoda to find 40 of their neighbors dead and nearly the whole community destroyed.
“I felt as if I was going crazy,” says Khin Myint. “I had no home left. There was no food to eat and no water to drink. What were we going to do? How was my family going to survive?”
Soon private donations began to flow into the country through the World Food Program. Khin Myint and her family traveled to an impromptu WFP relief camp in the nearby large town of Bogale for supplies. A month later, they returned to their village to rebuild their home and start a new life. The family now works with a single shrimp net Khin Myint’s son was able to purchase, and collects tiny shrimp in flooded paddy fields to sell in the markets of Bogale. It is a meager living and far from enough to feed a family of seven people. Until the fishing industry is rehabilitated and they can return to their old work, they will continue to rely on regular WFP food distributions for daily survival.
“These donations are very important for my family,” says Khin Myint. “I don’t know what we would do without this food. We would probably have to borrow from people and end up living off rice porridge like we did in the days after the cyclone.”
Ten weeks after Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar, the World Food Program has distributed over 15 thousand tons of food to about 750,000 individuals like Khin Myint and her family who are in need of immediate disaster assistance. But, as Myanmar enters into the heart of its rice planting season, the struggle to secure adequate food supplies and production only increases for those affected individuals who are still in recovery from the cyclone. Myanmar now faces the challenge of the global food crisis. While rising grain prices have not yet been fully felt in the country due to the government’s strict controls on the trading of rice, increased costs are expected to put even more strain on Myanmar’s estimated five million affected people at risk of malnutrition. This makes WFP’s assistance an essential lifeline to Myanmar’s most vulnerable populations.
Under the current assistance plan, WFP provides relief baskets of rice, pulses, vegetable oil, salt and blended food to the vulnerable poor including HIV/AIDS patients, TB patients under treatment, and primary school children. WFP has also initiated a cooperative mother/child nutrition program with three local health NGOs to address the high chronic malnutrition present in operational areas. Additionally, food assistance is being provided through food for work and food for training programs, which aim at improving community infrastructure and increasing local food production.
“Time is of the essence…We are mobilizing all possible resources to save lives given the massive disruption in food, water and shelter caused by this storm,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran.
WFP expects to assist about 1.6 million vulnerable people under current programs over the next three years. These WFP operations still requires considerable financial assistance to adequately serve all those in need. Friends of the World Food Program will continue to provide significant support from US donors to the World Food Program during this crisis. It is individuals like you, with the desire to make a difference in the lives of the 13 million affected people in Myanmar, who make this life-saving work possible. Thank you.
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