Sunday, January 16, 2022

Food insecurity grips Myanmar as UN struggles for help

Millions of people in Myanmar face food insecurity, and the world’s largest humanitarian organization warned on Friday that a lack of funds was preventing it from providing adequate aid.

The organization said the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) needs $86 million to continue operations in Myanmar, which represents 70 percent of its funding needs.

According to the latest WFP estimate, 6.2 million people in Myanmar could face food insecurity by October, a crisis compounded by ongoing political unrest and a third wave of the coronavirus spreading through the country.

“We have witnessed further intensification of hunger in Myanmar,” Stephen Anderson, country director of WFP Myanmar, said in a statement. “Nearly 90 percent of households living in slum-like settlements around Yangon say they have to borrow money to buy food.”

FILE – A boy walks on a bamboo bridge near his home in a poor community on the outskirts of Yangon on May 21, 2021.

Since the country’s military took over government in a coup in February, Myanmar has lost an estimated 1.2 million jobs compared to the last quarter of 2020, representing a six percent drop in employment.

The economic fallout comes as workers have gone on strike to protest the civilian military junta and the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The loss of jobs has affected every sector of the economy and worsened the pre-existing poverty in the country.

The WFP has reached 1.25 million people in Myanmar with food, cash and nutritional support during 2021, but stresses that without more funding over the next six months it is uncertain to sustain operations.

“The people of Myanmar need our support now more than ever,” Anderson said. “We are deeply grateful for the support of the international community – the people of Myanmar will never forget your generosity and solidarity.”

In February, Myanmar’s military responded to the National League for Democracy party’s massive electoral victory by forcibly toppling all three branches of government.

The Sena supported the NLD’s political rival, the Union Solidarity and Development Association party, which claimed the election was rigged in favor of the NLD.

The military junta immediately sparked massive protests in Myanmar and condemned world leaders. The ruling army responded by killing hundreds of protesters and arresting thousands of activists and journalists. More than 200,000 people have been displaced as they fled the violence.

The leader of the junta recently declared himself the country’s prime minister and extended military rule for two more years, promising to hold a new multi-party election in 2023.

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