GENEVA – The World Food Program is appealing for $86 million over the next six months to provide assistance to two million people in Myanmar facing acute hunger and the ravages of COVID-19.
UN officials say Myanmar’s people are facing poverty, acute hunger and economic distress due to political instability and repression following the February 1 military coup.
Additionally, COVID-19 is spreading widely and ravaging the country. The World Health Organization confirms about 320,000 cases, including 11,000 deaths. Unofficial reports say those figures have been greatly underestimated.
Stephen Anderson, country director of the World Food Program in Myanmar, said via a video link from the country’s capital, Naypyidaw, that the second wave of COVID-19 last year had a devastating impact on people’s livelihoods.
“And now, the third wave is practically like the tsunami that has hit this country,” Anderson said. “It’s affecting all aspects and causing great havoc in terms of people’s health, but we also know that it will have a very, very serious impact on people’s livelihoods.”
In April, the WFP estimated that between May and October 3.4 million more people could be short of food. In response, the UN agency is increasing aid to reach some two million people in the country’s poorest settlements. It is also intensifying campaigns for people displaced by conflict and insecurity in recent months.
Anderson said WFP is distributing food to people in conflict-affected areas in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states. In Rakhine state, he said thousands of Rohingya depend on international aid to survive.
Nearly one million Rohingya fled to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh in August 2017 to escape violence and persecution in Myanmar. Some 600,000 were left behind in northern Rakhine state.
Anderson said the WFP provides monthly rations for 240,000 Rohingyas who have been living in the camps since 2012. He said his agency is also helping thousands of other people living in villages who are short of food.
He said people find it difficult to survive from farming due to government restrictions that limit their access to markets to sell their goods.
Anderson said, “We are providing food assistance. We are also trying to support activities like school meal programs and community development type projects that help people get back on their feet. So, we Doing everything possible to support these people.”
Anderson said the people of Myanmar are facing their most difficult moment. Amidst job losses, rising food and fuel prices, political unrest, violence and displacement, people are struggling to keep food on the table, he said.
He added that it is extremely important that WFP receives the necessary funds to help those in need.