Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Rats further complicate food security in Myanmar

The World Food Programme says that a major infestation of rats has further hurt food security in a province of Myanmar. Many farmers from Myanmar's Chin province are now heading to neighboring India to work. Others have had to gather plants from the forests instead of relying on their crops for everyday food.

The IRIN provides some background on the Chin province of Myanmar and how the rats further hurt the tough food situation there.

Food insecurity in Myanmar, much less Chin state - wedged along the northwestern border between India and Bangladesh, and undoubtedly the least developed area of the country - is far from new.

According to a 2005 UN Development Programme (UNDP) household survey, one third of Myanmar’s population lives below the poverty line.

Some 70 percent of Chin State’s 500,000 people, comprised of 10 highland townships, live below the poverty line and 40 percent are without adequate food sources, Human Right Watch (HRW) said in a report on 28 January.

Some 85 percent of Chins rely on rotational, slash-and-burn farming for their livelihoods, but steep mountains and deep gorges mean farms are prone to soil erosion, and soil exhaustion is also common due to a lack of viable farmland, the report said.

Few international organisations and NGOs are on the ground, due largely to issues of access and strict government guidelines governing humanitarian presence.

Only a few villages are easily accessible by road during the rainy season, making transport of food and other commodities particularly difficult.

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