Photo essay: Focus on growing hunger in Myanmar

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YANGON – Hunger is rising across Myanmar amid multiple crises – job losses, soaring food and fuel prices, civil unrest, violence and displacement. More and more families, especially those living in poor townships and peri-urban areas, are struggling to put even the most basic food on the table. Parents resort to coping strategies, like borrowing money or taking high-risk jobs, just to feed their children and keep themselves afloat.

In April, the World Food Program estimated that an additional 3.4 million people could face hunger in the coming months, in addition to the 2.8 million people who were already unable to meet their food needs before 2021. In response, a new large-scale urban agglomeration The Food Operation was launched in May, through which WFP aims to reach at least 2 million people in Myanmar’s largest cities, including Yangon and Mandalay. Among those most in need are mothers, children, the disabled and the elderly. The United Nations agency also plans to assist those newly displaced by violence in other regions and to support 360,000 internally displaced and otherwise vulnerable people in the affected Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states. conflicts of previous years.

However, WFP’s vital work faces serious funding constraints, with over 70% of its funding needs for the next six months still unmet.

This photographic report provides a glimpse into the life of a young family living in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Yangon. Like many parents, Ko Min and Ma Moe put their kids first – borrowing money, eating less, doing odd jobs – so their kids can eat. As they struggle to do what they can, the country is in the throes of a new crisis – a new and virulent wave of COVID-19 linked to the Delta variant that will further exacerbate hunger among the poorest and most vulnerable .

Without a job, Ko Min has to do whatever he can, like picking and selling water spinach, to feed his family. “When I was a bricklayer, I had work every day. You could eat whatever you wanted and even feed the children. Now there is no more work. I have no no choice but to pick water spinach – I’ve never done the past ”, he says (© WFP Myanmar / 2021)

“When we had a job, we ate fish every day, and also meat. Now, it has been a long time since we ate meat or fish,” says Ma Moe, here with her son. “My son also likes the omelet with fried rice. But sometimes we can’t afford eggs and all I can give her is rice. (© PAM Myanmar / 2021)

Ko Min, center, queues to receive WFP food rations provided to families in difficulty like his. Compared to six months ago, rice prices have increased by 13% and cooking oil by 37%, according to WFP market monitoring, making staple foods increasingly unaffordable for families who lost their jobs and their income. (© PAM Myanmar / 2021)

Ma Moe, Ko Min and their two young children have lunch. Today’s meal consists of rice, donated by WFP, water spinach that Ko Min picked earlier, and an omelet. “If we don’t have anything, we pour cooking oil and salt in the rice and feed the children like that,” says Ko Min. (© PAM Myanmar / 2021)

In slums like this one, families are particularly affected. In response, they resort to negative coping strategies like borrowing money and taking high-risk jobs. In a WFP field assessment in May, 89% of respondents in Yangon’s informal settlements said they had to borrow money to buy food. (© PAM Myanmar / 2021)

When there is not enough food for everyone, Ma Moe and her husband either eat less or skip meals so their children have more to eat. “We parents can live without food, but children cannot,” says Ma Moe. (© PAM Myanmar / 2021)

“Never before have I gathered water grass to eat or done odd jobs for others. But I’m not afraid to do these things anymore. It’s for my family,” Ko Min said, watching her children enjoy a meal. (© PAM Myanmar / 2021)

Ko Min brings back food rations from a WFP distribution site. By the end of July, nearly 650,000 people had received food aid as part of WFP’s urban food response – a new operation the agency launched in May in response to rising hunger in Myanmar’s major cities. But many more are in urgent need of help, including those newly displaced by violence. WFP recently announced that its rescue work faces a 70% funding gap for the coming months. (© PAM Myanmar / 2021)


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