RANGOON — Rice rations for many of the more than 120,000 Burmese refugees living on the Thai-Burma border will be reduced, due to a reduction in funding for a humanitarian organization that has provided food for them for more than two decades.
The Border Consortium (TBC) says its funding for humanitarian work has dropped as donors redirect their funds to programs preparing for the return of refugees to Burma.
“However, donors are continuing substantial funding to humanitarian aid and making sure refugees continue to receive a standard ration while making sure the most vulnerable receive extra and children see no reduction,” TBC spokesman Mike Bruce told The Irrawaddy on Friday.
TBC announced this week that less rice would be provided for some households beginning with December’s food rations, which are distributed in late November, but that rations would not be reduced for children under the age of 18.
Under the revised rice rations plan, households are categorized according to their level of need, with four groups: self-reliant, standard, vulnerable and most vulnerable. Self-reliant households will see a cut in rice rations for adults.
“In order to ensure that the community’s basic needs are met, TBC is continuing to maintain a standard monthly ration while introducing four staged levels of assistance,” TBC executive director Sally Thompson said. “People who are in need of extra assistance may receive an increase in their rations.”
TBC added that ration changes were not intended to promote an early return to Burma.
“It is important to note that, currently, the refugee community, the Royal Thai Government, the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and UNHCR [the UN refugee agency] all agree that conditions do not yet exist for an organized return,” Thompson said.
TBC also said no changes in rations were being made at refugee camps in Ban Mae Surin and Ban Don Yang, among nine refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border. A fire at the Ban Mae Surin camp this year destroyed most of the property of residents there.
“The two camps that are not being reduced overall are assessed as highly vulnerable. One is still recovering from the fire in March, while the other is very isolated and has limited opportunities for livelihood programs and activities,” said Bruce.
He said TBC was concerned about the refugees and working to ensure that all households were aware of the changes in rations so they would have time to prepare.
TBC and other NGOs are currently working in the camps to offer a variety of income, employment and skills training programs.
“In order to give the community more experience in managing their food supply, TBC is also introducing community-managed targeting. This means that the camp community, not TBC, will determine which level of assistance each household qualifies for,” said Thompson.
Currently, the standard ration of rice is 12 kilograms per month for adults. The standard ration is being changed to 8, 10, or 12 kilograms, depending on need. Refugees also receive yellow split peas, vegetable oil, vitamin and mineral-fortified flour, fish paste, iodized salt and charcoal, none of which will be affected by the ration changes.
As of July 30, 129,787 people were living in refugee camps on the border, according to TBC.