Food Crisis in Burma: PWRDF Response

August 11, 2008

Since 2006, Chin State of Burma (also known as Myanmar), bordering the Mizoram state of India, has been plagued by a severe food crisis. The year 2006 marked the beginning of a new cycle of bamboo flowering, which occurs about every 50 years in the region. It triggered the explosion in the population of rats resulting in the subsequent destruction of crops. This has caused a severe shortage of food for local communities primarily dependent on subsistence farming through shifting cultivation. The phenomenon has occurred three times since 1862, and each occurrence has ended in catastrophic famine for communities in the area.

Based on the latest field surveys conducted in the affected areas, Chin Human Rights Organization estimates that as many as 200 villages have been directly affected by this severe food shortage associated with the bamboo flowering and no less than 100, 000 people or 20 percent of the entire population of Chin State may be in need of immediate food aid. Food scarcity is more severe in remote areas where families are being reduced to one meal a day or have nothing at all left to eat. The humanitarian consequences stemming from the dying bamboo and exacerbated by conditions imposed by the military regime, such as forced labour and the confiscation of farmland for cash crops such as tea and Jatropha for biofuel, are enormous, and there are clear indications that unless urgent action is taken to address the crisis, the situation could soon turn into a large-scale catastrophe affecting all parts of Chin State.

PWRDF has approved a grant of $15,000 in response to this crisis. The Chin Human Rights Organization in partnership with the local Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee is assisting 700 families from 20 different villages in Chin State with food relief, mainly rice, that will help sustain them for a month.

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