The United Nation's World Food Program says food insecurity and malnutrition
faced by Burma's Muslim Rohingya people, remains a key reason for thousands of
Rohingya fleeing the region each year. The WFP is calling on Burma's military
government to ease transport restrictions in the country to improve overall food
The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) blames poverty and
chronic food shortages as a key factor behind the ongoing exodus of Burma's
ethnic Muslim minority, Rohingya, despite more than a decade of international
assistance to the region.
The Rohingya people, largely live in Burma's
northern Rakhine State, the most western region of the country bordering on
Bangladesh. Most have been denied citizenship. The WFP has been providing food
relief to the Rohingya Rakhine state since 1994.
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
Recent WFP briefing papers say one third of Burma's children
under five are underweight, with over 100,000 of them dying each
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
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.
that allow food grown in one area to be sold in areas where food is not present;
that is the greatest factor that is holding back proper food security and an end
to high malnutrition rates for people in Burma today," he said.
also said that other restrictions placed on the Muslim population were adversely
affecting livelihoods, leaving them "vulnerable."
The Rohingya plight has
been highlighted over recent months as hundreds of the Muslim minority have fled
Burma and Bangladesh by boat in the hope of finding work in Southeast Asia, in
Hundreds in the boats have washed up along the
shoreline of Thailand and Indonesia triggering widespread debate and accusations
of law enforcement and military abuses in forcing boatloads of the refugees back
into open waters.
Thailand, preparing to host the regional summit of the
Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) this month, is calling on
regional governments to look to solutions to the problems of the Rohingya in the
run up to the meeting.