New Delhi (Mizzima) - The World Food Program (WFP) has pledged to offer further help to Chin state in western Burma plagued by rat infestation and other natural disasters leading to food shortage over the last three years.
Swe Swe Win, program officer of WFP's office in Burma's former capital Rangoon on Tuesday said, WFP will continue its assistance program in the country including Chin State under the new Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO), which will continue from 2010 to 2012 to improve food security, nutrition status and livelihood of the vulnerable population in Myanmar. The amount of the operation is not available.
"As far as food assistance is concerned, we are going to increase assistance throughout Chin state," Swe Swe Win told Mizzima. "Areas will be targeted based on their vulnerability and food insecurity" she added.
"Since the beginning, WFP has provided assistance to the affected areas through the food-for-work program," Swe Swe Win said, "We introduced the FFW scheme in community assets creation and provided food to the participants for their family members".
The chronic food insecurity in Burma's most backward Chin state worsened after bamboo flowering caused rat infestation in 2007. The rats destroyed crops in farmland and created food shortage in several villages.
London-based rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)'s recent report said at least 100,000 people in more than 200 villages in Chin state have been affected by the chronic food shortage caused by rat infestation leaving many dead from hunger and famine-related diseases.
Since 2009, WFP and NGOs responded to the rat crisis by launching a "Food for Work" programme in three townships and "Food plus Cash for Work" programme in five townships in Chin state.
WFP and its working partners' activities focus on improving productive assets that increase their food security, such as agriculture land development, construction of trafficable roads, as well as other projects identified by the communities themselves.
"The cash component is added to meet additional food needs, and also to help get out of debts for those who borrowed to endure the crisis," Swe Swe Win said.
In 2009, WFP provided 1088 metric tonnes of food and Kyat 85 million to the people in six townships in Chin state including Hakha, Thangtlang, Falam, Tonzang, Matupi and Tedim under food-for-work and food plus cash for work program.
"WFP is going to establish an office in Chin in the near future" she added.
Meanwhile, Khawma, Secretary of India's northeast state Mizoram based Chin Famine and Emergency Relief Committee (CFERC), which is into cross-border aid to Chin state said, some villagers are unhappy with an assistance program of the WFP led NGOs as it only benefits those who could get involved in the activities.
"Though each person received 3 kgs of rice per day, in some villages, the people who are under 18 and over 60 are not benefitting from the program as they are not allowed to work," Khawma said.
Khawma said the villagers could not do their own work as the working hour is from 6 am to 6 pm except hour for lunch.
According to Khawma, the rats had recently damaged several crops in farms in Paletwa Township in southern Chin state and left several villagers with shortage of food.
"The situation is getting worse in several areas of Paletwa Township as the rats recently destroyed several crops in hillside farms. The villagers are depending on jungle fruit and roots," Khawma told Mizzima.
Moreover, he said, the hot wind, which occasionally strikes the areas, and crop-eating birds like sparrows have brought down the crop yield in most areas of Chin state.
Nyi Nyi Aung, media contact person of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) office in Rangoon told Mizzima that its organization's development project could access only over 60 villages out of over 400 in Paletwa Township due to poor road connectivity.
UNDP at present is conducting development projects including setting up infrastructure to promote the livelihood of villagers in nine townships of Chin state. It has also distributed rice as emergency relief aid to the victims of rat infestation in 2008.
"We could not reach every village because of the difficulties of communication and transportation in those areas," Nyi Nyi Aung said.