Food Crisis Forced Children Out of School, Families And Communities Apart
SPDC-aggravated food crisis, which began in 2007, continues to ravage Burma’s Chin State, forcing children to drop out of school to help find food, and putting families and communities apart, according to a new report released yesterday by Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO).
The report entitled On the Edge of Survival: The continuing rat infestation and food crisis in Chin State, Burma stated: “Disease and malnourishment is widespread, particularly among women, children, and the elderly. Children with little ability to concentrate on studies due to hunger have been forced to drop out of school in order to help their families forage for food: school enrolment rates are down 50 to 60 percent from last year.”
A school teacher in Matupi Township said in the report that parents can simply no longer afford to send their children to school when there is no food left to eat at home.
Over 54 people, mostly children, are known to have died due to the effects of extreme malnourishment and famine-related disease. As access to affected regions is limited, this number is likely to be an underestimate.
“The food crisis is slowly dividing communities and families with an increasing number of Chins leaving their native lands in search of food and livelihoods in neighbouring countries. Some villages in southern Chin State, where food shortages are particularly severe, have been completely abandoned,” added CHRO’s report, a follow-up to its previous one published in July 2008.
More than 4,000 have already arrived to the India and Thailand border. Other affected areas of Chin State are likely to have similarly high numbers of people migrating from their homes in search of greater stability beyond Burma’s borders.
CHRO’s report also accused Burma’s long-standing SPDC of making the situation worse and more acute by its utter neglect of the suffering, practices of abuse and repression against Chin civilians.
Even before the bamboo began to flower, studies found that 70 percent of the Chin population live below the poverty line; 40 percent are without adequate food sources; and malnutrition and child mortality rates in Chin State are among the highest in the country.
Since last year, a series of ‘Chin Famine Live Aid Concerts’ has been organised in attempts to raise fund and awareness by CHRO in partnership with Chin Communities in various countries including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Denmark, Norway and Germany.
Earlier this year, a report by ZBC (Zomi Baptist Convention) also confirmed that the food crisis, locally known as mautam, has not stopped as bamboos are still flowering in Southern Chin State.
Despite concerted efforts and responses made by local and international groups, the current situation, which is predicted to last three to five years, is yet far from over due to limited access to worse-affected areas in the remote regions, where villagers have not yet received any assistance.
Van Biak Thang
18 September, 2009