“The Burma Human Rights Network has documented a reduction in food rations that can only lead to starvation and death. We are appalled by the current state of affairs and call upon the international community and UN agencies to review cuts to food” stated Kyaw Win of BHRN
The Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) is concerned about cuts to IDP food aid by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in parts of Rakhine state, Myanmar.
BHRN sources report that food aid has ceased for a significant number of people in the towns of Kyauktaw, Mrauk U, Min Bya and surrounding areas, referred to as “Zone 1” by the humanitarian community. Specifically, one camp near Kyauk Phyu, one in Ramree, six around Min Bya, one in Myay Bon, 13 in Sittwe, 10 in Kyauk Taw, two in Mrauk U, four in Pauk Taw, and three in the Rathedaung area. In total, 41 camps have experienced cuts or have been informed they may face cuts in the near future.
BHRN has learnt that new rules have been (or will soon be) imposed on food aid recipients so that the most vulnerable, widows and widowers, and the disabled will have their rations ring-fenced as everyone else is set to lose their provisions altogether. Those fortunate enough to retain their entitlements will receive a monthly food ration consisting of 54 tins of rice (estimated 5kg), one packet of salt, seven tins of beans (estimated 2kg) and half a litre of cooking oil.
A resident of San Hto Tan village (which has a population of 750) told BHRN:
“We were told that only widows and widowers, and disabled IDPs will get food rations, but another condition is only those who are living alone, so none of IDPs from this village qualified under these conditions.”
A resident of Peik Thae village (near Min Bya) told BHRN:
“Even though some people are poor they are not getting food rations as their age is between 20 and 30; they were give[n] [the] reason that they are able to work for living … but work opportunities are so scarce here and we are not allow to go anywhere.”
In Da Tha village, local residents told BHRN that one man in his 50s had died recently due to malnutrition. Two villages in Rathedaung Township – Nyaung Bin Gyi and Ah Nauk Pyin – have reported to BHRN that they stopped receiving food rations in January 2016.
A resident of Kadi village in Ponnagyun Township told BHRN that many had resorted to begging:
“Some villagers here are surviving without food rations since the beginning [of the humanitarian crisis in 2012]. They go out to other villages where [better off] people live, to ask for food donations and then they distribute among the people in this village.”
BHRN is deeply concerned about the impact that these arbitrary cuts have had, and will have, on communities in which many families rely on food rations to survive. Restrictions on freedom of movement and access to employment opportunities mean that most of those affected are not self-sufficient and thus are likely to face a deterioration in their conditions of life once support ends. In addition to a lack of access to employment, many Rohingya villages are surrounded by Rakhine settlements; there have been many cases in the past in which Rohingya individuals have been attacked in Rakhine areas.
The distress and concern felt by the people BHRN have spoken to, as well their lack of means to independently support themselves, underlines the need for the responsible decision-makers within the UN and WFP to reassess the appropriateness of these moves.