Myanmar: A Second Savior

Published on 12 April 2013
Iscola and her family in Auk Palaw.

Iscola lives in Auk Pulaw village in Phekon Township in Shan State with her four children. Through WFP’s partner Karunar Myanmar Social Services (KMSS), a Myanmar NGO, Iscola received food assistance to help support families devastated by the chili crop failure in Phekon Township in late 2012. This is her story.

I am Iscola. There are five members in my family: myself and my four children. The eldest son is eight years. The second son is six, and paralyzed with polio. My third is a daughter, and she is four years old. The youngest is 10 months old.

For the last 10 years, we have been very poor. We have not had enough to eat since I married my late husband. However hard we work, we've never had enough food for the family to escape this poverty. We’re getting worse as time goes by.

My husband and I first worked on our own farms, but our crop yields were very poor. We had to find other jobs, like rice pounding and other casual labor for others in the village. We had to work an entire day to get food for a meal. When jobs weren't available, we used to find roots, shoots, herbs, fish, snails from the wild, and exchange them for rice or food. There were many days when we went to bed with empty stomachs.

After the second child was born, life became harder for us. I couldn't help my husband much to make money because I had to give our disabled son full-time care and attention. He has been paralyzed since infancy. I think it's because of malnourishment and malnutrition.

The lack of food also affected the health of my husband. He fell sick frequently. Though he wasn't healthy, he had to work to keep the family surviving day after day. As months and years passed, his illness became more frequent and more severe. When we had nothing to eat, the villagers usually brought us their leftovers.

From late 2011 to mid 2012, life was full of misery. Heavy rain destroyed the crops, and almost all the households had a food crisis. My family suffered the most. My husband was seriously ill with tuberculosis, and in bed. We were left without food for several days, and no one would come to our aid because the whole village didn't have food. There were no jobs and no food.

We survived on wild plants, fruits and roots. Sometimes, we just chewed wild betel nuts, which my eldest son searched for in the wood. Since the nuts were scarce, we could only have one nut per day. We could hardly keep soul and body together. The children didn't have human forms anymore; they rather looked like bags of bones. Whenever I looked at them, I wanted to cry. But I couldn't. It seems I had no more tears.

My eldest child used to steal the lunch of other children in the village when he couldn't stand the hunger anymore. He said he couldn't help it; he was starving. The villagers came to dislike us, and many stopped talking to us.

Then came WFP and Karuna (KMSS-Phekon). This gave us hope and the strength to carry on living. Two of my children would have died if we had not received this help. But it was also in the first month we received this food assistance when my husband died of TB (Tuberculosis).

After the funeral, we moved to my native village, Auk Pulaw. I had no possessions except children to carry. I put my paralyzed child in a basket on my back, and held the infant in front. The other two siblings walked by my side, slowly heading for Auk Pulaw village seven miles away.

We received food for five months. And we are now happy and healthy. My eldest child goes to school with a short pencil and a sheet of blank paper from a friend's notebook.

I don't know how we will survive when the food assistance stops. With this baby and my paralyzed son, I cannot leave home to work. Hopefully, the village will see to our daily bread. But I'd like to sincerely thank WFP and Karuna for your bountiful assistance. You are like a second savior to me.

(As told to Kyi Kyi Lin, WFP Senior Programme Assistant in Myanmar)