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Burma: Shows Food Shortages and Hunger Continues

Ottawa, Canada: The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) released an updated report on the continuing food crisis in Chin State, Burma. The new report, entitled, On the Edge of Survival: The Continuing Rat Infestation and Food Crisis in Chin State, Burma, finds that food shortages have spread to seven townships in Chin State as well as parts of Sagaing Division. Up to 82 percent of the farmland has been destroyed in certain affected regions of Chin State, and large numbers of people are struggling with severe malnutrition, disease, and death. Several thousand Chin have fled their villages to search for food elsewhere.

“People have nothing to eat,” said Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Executive Director of CHRO. “They are hungry, malnourished, and in a state of desperation. Meanwhile, the military regime has turned this natural disaster into a manmade disaster by ignoring and exacerbating the situation in western Burma.”

While the immediate cause of food insecurities in Chin State is rooted in the cyclical flowering and dying of bamboo in the area, the continuation of severe human rights violations and repressive economic policies by Burma’s military regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), has aggravated conditions in the affected areas. SPDC has denied repeated requests for food aid, even as it reports a rice surplus and exports increasing amounts of rice to markets abroad. Practices of forced labor, extortion, and confiscations of land and property continue within the affected areas, effectively undermining people’s livelihoods and food security. While many Chin villagers are completely dependent on foreign food aid for their survival, local authorities have issued a ban on foreign aid, threatening reprisals against anyone who accepts foreign aid.

“The Chin people have suffered decades of abuse and repression at the hands of the military regime. Denying emergency food aid and obstructing relief efforts is just one attack against the ethnic Chin people of Burma,” said Salai Bawi Lian Mang.

While international aid organizations have started to take notice of the situation, the response remains limited and problematic in certain aspects. Relief is largely provided through “work-for-food” and “work-for-cash” programs within communities where forced labor is high and people have little time or energy left to work their own farms. Civil society groups have organized relief teams to reach hard-hit and difficult to access areas. These teams are responsible for delivering over 30,000 kilograms of rice to 54 villages in six townships from May to July 2009 alone, but their continued operation requires sustained support from the international community. Despite the best efforts of relief groups working both inside and along the border, many remote villages severely affected by the food crisis have not yet received any aid or assistance. For now, these communities are living on the edge of survival.

Source: Indigenousportal


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