Saturday, 26 July 2008

Food top priority for Burma's cyclone victims

By Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima)- Nearly three months after the killer Cyclone Nargis played havoc in Burma's southwestern coastal region, hundreds of thousands are still not getting enough food, the United Nations World Food Programme said on Friday .

"The situation remains dire in Myanmar [Burma] ," said Chris Kaye, WFP's Country Director for Burma on Friday. "The vast majority of families simply don't have enough to eat."

Kaye said hunger is a huge threat and that comes in the way of victims concentrating in other fields of reconstruction and rebuilding their lives.

"Hunger remains a very real threat, and if people are hungry, they can't focus on restructuring their livelihood," Kaye said.

In response to the crisis, Kaye said, WFP is scaling up its emergency feeding programmes for 924,000 beneficiaries, which will last till next April.

Kaye, however, said WFP is facing a 52 percent shortfall of its US$ 112 million operation despite the recent contributions made by the United Kingdom and Australia.

A local volunteer in Rangoon, back from a visit to rural villages in Bogale township of Irrawaddy delta, told Mizzima that she had witnessed several villages that are without any assistance.

"There are several villages in Bogale Township alone that have no assistance so far," said the volunteer, adding that the aid is "simply not enough" to reach all the survivors in the Irrawaddy delta.

"Villagers of Aye Chan Thar told me that the only assistance they had received was seeds from the government and unfortunately these seeds do not sprout," she added.

According to the volunteer, though several humanitarian groups including several UN agencies have been deployed in Burma's Irrawaddy and Rangoon division to help cyclone survivors, much more is needed to reach all the affected people.

"People are still struggling for basic food," she added.

The volunteer, who also extended her visit to Kyauk Than Township in Rangoon division said, though farmers in many places are seen working in their fields, many of them said their expectations were poor.

"They told me the yield this year would not be sustainable even for them because they do not have enough seeds to sow," the volunteer said.

Cyclone Nargis that swept Burma on May 2-3, not only left 138,000 dead and missing, but also destroyed most of the seeds needed for this year's plantation.

While the government and a few other aid groups provided seeds to farmers, several farmers said many of the seeds received as assistance failed to sprout, making it unfit for plantation.

Farmers in Kyauk Than are apprehensive of lack of food in the near future as they cannot plant rice as much as they used to, due to unavailability of seeds, the volunteer said.

"They cannot afford to buy the seeds from the market, so all they can do is plant only as much as is available," she added.

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