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.