June 14, 2021

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Myanmar: from COVID and the food crisis to authoritarianism | Roce today

A United Nations report warned in March that Myanmar is heading towards a food crisis in the next six months.

The difficulties are exacerbated by the pandemic that is spreading across the country. It’s not just political turmoil and growing violence during military crackdown on civilians that people face – skyrocketing prices, loss of family income and rising COVID-19 cases are causing havoc.

Fight for food with rising prices

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) report warned that Myanmar, a country that exported rice, beans and fruit before the pandemic, will see millions of people starving in the coming months.

Of those who fled military oppression in the country, an estimated 20,000 people have passed through the Indian state of Mizoram, which shares a porous border with the country hit by the crisis since the military coup in February 2021.

Since then, Indian state non-governmental organizations have launched “assistance programs” for displaced and homeless people.

Some of these people have shared their challenges with Sputnik on condition of anonymity.

“My brother-in-law’s family were among those who left Myanmar in April and moved to our village, which is just 25 km from the border,” J. Suate of Mizoram (name changed on request).

“One kilogram of rice is now available at nearly three times the January price of this year. With most people out of work, food has become a major concern for people in Myanmar, ”Suate added.

The UN report states that following the military takeover on February 1, 2021, the situation in Myanmar is deteriorating rapidly, with a high risk of increasing food insecurity and malnutrition, particularly for the urban poor.

“Demonstrations and a general strike across Myanmar risk exacerbating the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 blocking measures, which have seen 80% of families lose income,” the UN report said.

Myanmar remains one of the least developed nations in the world with an estimated 38% of the population living near or below the poverty line.

Price hikes have particularly affected remote areas: near the Chinese border in Kachin state, rice costs nearly 50 percent more, according to WFP.

WFP estimates that 3.4 million more people will go hungry in Myanmar within the next six months and is ready to triple its emergency food assistance.

COVID-19 pandemic becomes lethal in Myanmar along with military repression

Military oppression has killed over 800 protesters since February, including children.

According to the Association for Political Prisoners, as of May 26, 828 people have been confirmed killed by the military, while 4,330 people are currently under arrest. Violence was reported across the country after people, including teachers and medical staff, joined the civil disobedience movement against the country’s military and held pro-democracy demonstrations.

In this deep political crisis, the pandemic is just another blow to the people. Myanmar reported 144,317 coronavirus cases and 3,225 deaths. Over 200 cases were reported from across the country on June 4, the highest in over four months. Many of the cases come from the state of Chin which borders India, raising concerns that the most transmissible variant found in India is now spreading to Myanmar.

“We have seen an increasing number of refugees, who have flocked to the camps set up in the state, complaining of fever and symptoms similar to COVID-19”.

“On government instructions, we have admitted several people to state hospitals. Many have recovered and been discharged, “L Vlanatana, an NGO volunteer in Mizoram, told Sputnik.

Coronavirus tests collapsed after the coup when large numbers of health care workers, including doctors and paramedics, joined civil disobedience movements to protest the military who ousted the National League for Democracy (NLD) government. ).

State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other senior NLD leaders previously in power remain under arrest. More than half of Chin state in northwestern Myanmar has been blocked after the military regime imposed stay-at-home orders for four other townships in the state due to the COVID-19 spike.

The small town of Tonzang on the border with India is witnessing a rapid spread of the coronavirus, reporting 20 to 52 cases every day in the past few days. The military has repeatedly asked health workers who joined civil disobedience movements to return to work.