Food Crisis In Chin State Worsens As Rainy Season Comes
Van Biak Thang(30 June, 2009)The Chin villagers are bracing themselves for a worsening aftermath of the ongoing bamboo-and-rat-related food crisis in Chin State as the monsoon season sets in, according to the relief groups.
The Chin victims, suffering from severe food shortage caused by rat infestation since late 2006, are worried as the coming rainy season can interrupt deliveries of relief assistance to their areas.
Victor Biak Lian of Chin Human Rights Organisation that has been organising ‘live aid concerts’ in different countries to raise awareness and funds for the Chin victims said: “The humanitarian crisis is getting worse and far from being over in Chin State. Their [Chin villagers’] farming has been interrupted and destroyed by not only rats but also lack of rain. Chin victims are now in need of help and assistance even more.”
In addition, severe weather conditions during the cultivation period have destroyed most of the seeds sown on their farms and as a result, the villagers have no hope but a sharp decline in this year’s crop yields.
There are some NGOs and local relief groups that have been working in the affected areas but those victims in the remote jungle have not been reached as it is not accessible by vehicles.
WFP officer Siddharth Krishnaswamy told the Irrawaddy that eighty-five percent of people in Chin State are in debt to local moneylenders after taking loans to buy food and that the Chins are constantly facing food insecurity, and they are unable to pay for food, health and education as they have to pay off their debts.
In regard to difficulties in access to remote areas, Chris Kaye, WFP Country Director and Representative in Burma, said: “The remoteness of the region and the challenging operating environment in Myanmar do serve as obstacles to our operations. However, please be assured that the UN family in collaboration with our NGO partners will continue to do all we can to bring relief to those in need and will do so in accordance with humanitarian principles and following rights based approaches.”
While thanking the NGOs, local relief groups and Chin communities around the world for their contribution to the victims, Zomi Baptist Convention General Secretary Rev. M. Thawng Kam stressed bamboos are still flowering in some parts of Chin State, especially in Paletwa Township.
Mizoram-based Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee (CFERC) said many people are surviving on boiled rice, fruits and vegetables. The WFP’s report said 75 percent of the crops in the area had been destroyed by rats and 30 percent of the villagers surveyed had been forced to abandon their fields.
About 100,000 of the 500,000 people in Chin State have been severely affected, according to Chin Human Rights Organisation, which in association with a coalition of Mizoram-based relief groups is soon to produce a report on the latest situation of food crisis in Chin State.
The food crisis has been caused by a natural phenomenon which happens about every 50 years in Chin State when the bamboo-flowering gives rise to an explosion in the rat population, which feed on the plants and crops.
Chin State, situated at an average altitude of 4,000 feet (1,250 meters) in the western part of Burma, is mountainous, isolated and SPDC-ignored. During the rainy season, communication and transportation can be severely affected and completely cut off in most parts due to frequent landslides, monsoons and huge surge of water in rivers due to heavy rains.