Friday, February 20, 2009

WFP blames food shortages and poverty for Rohingya flight

In recent months, a Muslim minority of Burma has been fleeing the country to find opportunity elsewhere. Instead the Rohingya Muslims have been captured and put in refugee camps or forced to turn back. Thailand has recently come into controversy for their treatment of the Rohingya.

The World Food Programme is now on record for blaming food shortages and poverty as the reasons for the Rohingya fleeing Bangladesh and Burma. Ron Cohen of the Voice of America received the reasons why from an WFP spokesman.

Paul Risley, WFP's regional communications advisor, says the levels of food shortages and malnutrition is adding to a sense of desperation among the Rohingya community.

"Poverty is still the greatest challenge," he said. "The people in Rakhine State are often found to be without food between harvests. There is a growing sense of desperation that's measured by the very high malnutrition rates we found in the recent assessment."

Recent WFP briefing papers say one third of Burma's children under five are underweight, with over 100,000 of them dying each year.

Currently the WFP plans to provide some 1.6 million people across northern Rakhine state, Shan state and the Magway Division - covering Chin and Kachin states - with food assistance.

The WFP is already providing food relief for over one million people in the Irrawaddy Delta region devastated by cyclone Nargis in May last year. The cyclone claimed thousands of lives.

Risley called on Burma's authorities to ease restrictions on the movement of goods and food from elsewhere in the country where the WFP and other non-government organizations are currently operating.

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