UN Reports Food Shortage in Burma

by Medindia Content Team on Oct 20 2007 5:06 PM

UN officials have claimed that at least one in ten Burmese is going to bed hungry and an estimated five million people do not have enough food.

According to a report in The Independent, Burma, which once was known as the "Rice Bowl of Asia", is now a country ravaged by a lack of food, and a steep increase in the costs of fuel and other commodities.

The paper quoted Paul Risley, an official with the World Food Programme, who has just returned from the country, as saying that many people are struggling to survive on meagre meals.

"We can presently only provide food to about 500,000 vulnerable persons – far less than is needed. There are points of real poverty and food insecurity in parts of Burma's urban areas. This has happened before, but it is becoming a larger problem, Risley said.

A WFP team including Risley and Tony Banbury, its regional director for Asia, spent five days in Burma and visited the southern Shan state at the heart of the Golden Triangle – once one of the world's most important areas of illegal opium cultivation. There, they found desperate poverty among the former opium farmers.

The officials also visited the western state of Rakhine, formerly Arakan, which is home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingas – the predominantly Muslim people expelled from Bangladesh years ago, and said they desperately required food.

The UN estimates that one third of children under five are underweight and 10 per cent are classified as acutely malnourished or "wasted". Child mortality rates of 106 per 1,000 are among the worst in Asia.