UN official urges more relief aid to Myanmar
Just back from Myanmar, a senior official from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today called for an increase in the level of humanitarian assistance to the country while urging its Government to undertake reforms that will help the poor.
WFP Regional Director for Asia Tony Banbury said current aid levels are unable to meet the needs of the people of Myanmar and urged the country's Government to undertake “critical reforms for the benefit of the country's desperately poor and needy people,” the agency said in a news release.
At least 5 million vulnerable persons in Myanmar are short of food, and many suffer needlessly from diseases and live in poverty, according to WFP, which said it can presently only provide food to about 500,000 vulnerable persons – far less than is needed.
“Humanitarian organizations can help, but we are faced with insufficient funding, and whatever we manage to accomplish in the current circumstances will only scratch the surface,” said Mr. Banbury. The WFP operation in Myanmar is presently less than one third funded.
“Myanmar and its people have tremendous potential. But the government's policies, its harsh travel and trade restrictions, unnecessarily trap millions in lives of poverty and malnutrition, even in food surplus areas such as Shan State,” said Mr. Banbury. “WFP food assistance is desperately needed by so many people, but it is only reaching a fraction of them.”
Even with greater funding for aid agencies, humanitarian assistance alone will not be enough to transform the lives of the millions of vulnerable persons in Myanmar who need help, he said, calling for the Government to “immediately pursue the reforms needed to lift Myanmar's people out of poverty and hunger, and allow them to reach their full potential.”
Operating in Myanmar in collaboration with its partners, WFP currently provides food assistance to vulnerable persons in Myanmar, including HIV/AIDS and TB patients under treatment and school children in marginalized areas of the country. A programme giving nutritionally-enriched foods to mothers and children addresses acute malnutrition rates that prevail in several areas.