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UN: 3 million facing hunger in coup-hit Myanmar

April 22, 2021

Food aid reliance is set to triple to 3.4 million people in Myanmar within months, the World Food Program has warned, as the country reels from a coup, endemic poverty and the COVID pandemic.

Myanmar Ernährungslage

Food scarcity in coup-hit Myanmar will multiply in the next six months, leaving 3.4 million people reliant on its aid, the UN's World Food Program (WFP) warned Thursday.

Additional food assistance was intended for two million more vulnerable people — on top of 1.3 million already receiving such aid, with an estimated 250,000 people already displaced, said the WFP. 

Appealing for $106 million (€88 million) in extra funding, the WFP's director for Myanmar, Stephen Anderson, said families were already "skipping meals” in the 10 poorest suburbs of Yangon, Myanmar's largest city.

"More and more poor people have lost their jobs and are unable to afford food," said Anderson, depicting a "sharp" rise in "hunger and desperation."

Myanmar Ernährungslage
Yangon, April 2021: Searching a rubbish skip as hunger rises and earnings run outImage: AFP/Getty Images

Prices for staples — such as rice and cooking oil — had risen nationwide, especially in Myanmar's border areas of Chin, Kachin, Rakhine and Shan states.

For example, said Anderson, rice prices had soared by up to 43% in some townships of Kachin state and cooking oil by 32%.

Prices for fuel had increased by "roughly 30% nationwide," he said.

"The world must act immediately to address this humanitarian catastrophe," said Andrews.

The WFP in its press release blamed three primary causes: Myanmar's February military coup, "pre-existing poverty," and the global coronavirus pandemic's spread across Myamar.

Crisis summit in Jakarta

On Saturday, a crisis summit of the South-East Asian Nation (ASEAN) grouping is planned in Jakarta but slammed by Human Rights Watch (HRW) for its inclusion of sanctioned coup leader, Min Aung Hlaing.

Local monitors say his military's crackdown on persistent protests across Myanmar since February's ouster of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has left at least 738 people killed, children included, and 3,300 languishing in jails.

According to Reporting ASEAN, 38 media workers were also in detention.

Sleeping in caves, under banana trees

In Myanmar's eastern Karen border region — near Thailand — 24,000 subsistence rice farmers had been displaced by recent military air and ground mortar strikes, said David Eubank of the Christian aid group, Free Burma Rangers.

Unable to safely return home to tend their paddy fields, "you're looking at a six-month problem of no food," said Eubank.

Some displaced were sleeping in caves or under banana trees, he said.

Airstrikes in Kachin state in Myanmar's north have also displaced a further 5,000.

"We have difficulties with food storage,” Brang Shawng, a camp leader in Kachin state, told the French news agency AFP.

More than 2,000 ethnic Karen had crossed Myanmar's border into Thailand, said Padoh Mann Mann, a spokesman for brigade five of the Karen National Union, a rebel group long active in the mountainous region.

ipj/msh (AFP, epd, dpa)

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