UN seeks funds to feed 6.2m people in Myanmar

Published August 7, 2021
A woman cooks at a food stall with posters against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar. — Reuters/File
A woman cooks at a food stall with posters against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar. — Reuters/File

GENEVA: The United Nations said on Friday it urgently needed funds to feed people in Myanmar amid fears that up to 6.2 million could be plunged into hunger by October.

The UN’s World Food Programme said it was 70 per cent short of the $86 million needed over the next six months, as the country goes through multiple crises.

A major wave of Covid-19 infections is surging through Myanmar, compounding hunger, rising food and fuel prices, political unrest, violence and displacement, the WFP said.

“We have seen hunger spreading further and deeper in Myanmar,” said the WFP’s Myanmar country director Stephen Anderson.

Military offers amnesty to some protesters in hiding

“Nearly 90pc of households living in slum-like settlements around Yangon say they have to borrow money to buy food; incomes have been badly affected for many.” Myanmar has been in chaos and its economy paralysed since the military seized power from civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1.

The country has experienced mass protests and a brutal military response since the coup.

The WFP launched an urban food response in May, targeting two million people in Yangon and Mandalay, Myanmar’s two biggest cities.

So far this year, 1.25 million people in Myanmar have received WFP food, cash and nutrition assistance.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva via video-link from the capital Naypyidaw, Anderson said the third wave of Covid-19 hitting the country was “practically like a tsunami”, creating “major havoc” and having a severe impact on people’s lives.

“The people of Myanmar are facing their most difficult moment in living memory. It is critically important for us to be able to access to all those in need and receive the funding to provide them with humanitarian assistance,” he said.

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s ruling military has offered to waive charges against some protesters involved in demonstrations or strikes if they come forward to authorities, state media reported on Friday, prompting a sceptical response from several facing charges.

The Southeast Asian country has been in turmoil since the army toppled the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi six months ago, sparking a wave of protests and a civil disobedience movement that has paralysed parts of the state.

Since the coup, security forces have arrested more than 7,000 people, while 1,984 warrants are outstanding, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an activist group.

No amnesty would be offered to anyone wanted for crimes such as murder, arson or attacks on troops, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported, blaming incitement by members of Suu Kyi’s party for the civil disobedience campaign.

“Hence, those wishing to return home of their own accord... may trustfully contact the following telephone numbers or nearby police stations, district and township administration bodies,” said the state media report Security forces have brutally suppressed protests, killing hundreds since the coup, and the idea of surrendering to military authorities was dismissed by some currently in hiding and facing charges.

“It might be a set up,” said Khin Myat Myat Naing, 35, who has been charged under section 505A of the penal code, which criminalises comments that could cause fear or spread false news and is punishable by up to three years in jail.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2021

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