Food Shortages in Western Myanmar as Regime Forces Block Access to Region

By The Irrawaddy 2 March 2022

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) and residents in Mindat, Kanpetlet and Thantlang townships in southern Chin State are facing food shortages and rising food prices due to junta forces blocking access roads.

The military regime has been attacking resistance groups in southern Chin State, and has cut supply routes in Magwe Region’s Saw Township linked with Mindat, Kanpetlet and Thantlang townships. As a result, locals are now running short of rice and other basic foodstuffs, as well as medicines and other consumer goods.

“They have continuously blocked the roads. They barely allow food supplies to pass through. As a result, food prices have almost doubled. Food supplies are also scarce and hard to buy. Medicines are also hard to buy,” a Mindat resident told The Irrawaddy.

Junta soldiers have occasionally robbed food and medicine shipments as they were transported to Chin State, he added. Since May, the military regime has blocked humanitarian aid from reaching tens of thousands of people affected by the fighting in Chin State.

“While we are having difficulties bringing in food, we also haven’t been able to grow any food for months. So we are facing greater hardship. People who are sheltering at IDP camps said food is now running out. We could not sell the elephant foot yam that we grew last year because there was nothing to transport it with. Things have got harder. We are also not growing elephant foot yam this year, so food shortages are expected in the coming months,” said the Mindat resident.

Other locals also said that a food crisis is very likely to occur in Chin State if the junta continues to block access roads.

The regime has also confiscated food supplies bound for Kanpetlet on many occasions, and IDPs there are already going hungry.

Some 4,000 locals have been displaced in Kanpetlet since clashes broke out in the town between the Chinland Defense Force and the Myanmar military last May.

One Thantlang resident said: “There are some 270 people from around 60 households at the IDP camp in our town. Food is running out because the regime has cut supply routes. IDPs have no money and they barely receive donations. We need donors.”

Mountain-top Thantlang was heavily shelled by junta forces last year and over 200 houses went up in flames, according to residents.

Over 21,000 people from five townships in Chin State fled their homes due to food shortages last year, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

Some 218,900 people have been displaced by fighting in Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Mon and Shan states as well as in Magwe, Sagaing and Tanintharyi regions, according to UNOCHA.

The United Nations estimates that the number of people needing assistance will grow from one million before last year’s coup to 14.4 million this year, including more than five million children.

About 25 million people, or roughly half Myanmar’s population, could be living below the national poverty line in 2022.

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