Humanitarian aid not enough for Myanmar's poor - UN official

Published on 18 October 2007

A senior official of WFP has said that humanitarian assistance is presently unable to meet the needs of the people of Myanmar and that the Myanmar Government must undertake immediate critical reforms for the benefit of the country\'s desperately poor and needy people.

A senior official of the World Food Programme has said that humanitarian assistance is presently unable to meet the needs

Humanitarian organisations can help, but we are faced with insufficient funding, and whatever we manage to accomplish in the current circumstances will only scratch the surface
WFP Regional Director for Asia Tony Banbury

of the people of Myanmar and that the Myanmar Government must undertake immediate critical reforms for the benefit of the country's desperately poor and needy people.

Following a visit last week to Myanmar, WFP Regional Director for Asia Tony Banbury said that while at least five million vulnerable persons in Myanmar are short of food, and that far too many people suffer needlessly from diseases and live in poverty, WFP can presently only provide food to about 500,000 vulnerable persons – far less than is needed.

Insufficient funding

“Humanitarian organisations can help, but we are faced with insufficient funding, and whatever we manage to accomplish in the current circumstances will only scratch the surface,” said Banbury, whose four-day visit included reviewing WFP operations in Shan State, Myanmar.

The WFP operation in Myanmar is presently only 30 percent funded.

Banbury met with UN Agency and diplomatic representatives in Yangon, and met with WFP’s staff in Yangon and in Taunggyi during his visit to Myanmar.

Banbury also travelled to Pin Laung and Hsi Hsaing Townships in Southern Shan State, visiting villages and schools where WFP food assistance supports families and communities formerly dependent on opium cultivation.

"Tremendous potential"

"Myanmar and its people have tremendous potential. But the government’s policies, its harsh travel and trade restrictions, unnecessarily trap millions in lives of poverty and malnutrition, even in food surplus areas such as Shan State,” said Banbury.

“WFP food assistance is desperately needed by so many people, but it is only reaching a fraction of them,” he said.

Even with greater funding for aid agencies, humanitarian assistance alone will not be enough to transform the lives of the millions of vulnerable persons in Myanmar who need help, said Banbury.

Reforms

“The Myanmar government should immediately pursue the reforms needed to lift Myanmar’s people out of poverty and hunger, and allow them to reach their full potential,” he said.

Operating in Myanmar in collaboration with 22 UN and NGO cooperating partners, WFP provides food assistance to vulnerable persons in Myanmar including HIV/AIDS and TB patients under treatment and school children in marginalised areas of the country.

A programme giving nutritionally-enriched foods to mothers and children addresses acute malnutrition rates that prevail in several operational areas.

Food assistance

Over three years, WFP plans to reach a total of 1,600,000 vulnerable people at a total cost of US$51.7 million.

WFP assistance is provided to the returned Rohinga communities in North Rakhine State, drought-affected areas in the central dry zone, and farming communities in former poppy growing areas in the Shan State.

WFP provides vulnerable families and households with a food basket consisting of rice, pulses, vegetable oil, salt and high-protein blended food. WFP operations rely on the Government to facilitate the movement of food and personnel.