RANGOON — The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP), both UN agencies, released a statement on Thursday revealing that rural communities in western Burma are still enduring increased levels of food insecurity, particularly in areas recovering from natural disasters.
Though it has been more than seven months since Cyclone Komen struck Burma, malnutrition and poverty continue to affect people in the hardest-hit areas of Chin and Arakan states, “highlight[ing] their vulnerability to withstand similar emergencies in the future,” according to the statement.
The FAO and WFP are concerned that populations in these areas will require relief assistance in the coming months “to ensure long-term recovery” due to severe food shortages. Severe flooding in the region has also led to an increase in malnutrition in areas of Arakan and Chin states where children were already malnourished. In the report, the FAO and WFP recommend that assistance be provided in the form of cash or vouchers to contribute to the purchase of food.
The statement added that Arakan State and Sagaing Division in particular have suffered a loss of livestock and damage to fisheries, including 23,000 hectares of shrimp ponds. This has destroyed livelihoods and also contributed to malnutrition by eliminating traditional protein sources.
According to the 2015 Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) on which the report is based, the national impact of natural disasters on crops was limited. Yet in Arakan and Chin states, paddy production could decrease by up to 15 percent this year, meaning there will be less rice available and the rice that reaches market will be sold at a higher cost.
“In addition to the urgent rebuilding of livelihoods through the provision of crop seeds, livestock, the rebuilding of fishing gear and boats as well as the rehabilitation of fish and shrimp ponds, we are also ensuring a focus on longer term interventions which enable farmers and communities to better cope with future emergencies,” said Bui Thi Lan, Burma’s FAO representative, in the statement.
Since August of last year, the WFP reports that they have been implementing flood relief measures in Burma and have reached 500,000 people affected by the natural disaster. They expect to continue their efforts until mid-2016, yet the UN agency also states that they are US$47 million short of being able to meet all food assistance needs in Burma until the end of the year.