More than seven months after Cyclone Komen struck Myanmar, poor rural communities are still enduring increased levels of food insecurity, according to a UN report released today. In particular, people in the hardest-hit areas of Chin and Rakhine state – already vulnerable to begin with – are still suffering, which serves to highlight their vulnerability to withstand similar emergencies in the future.
These people may face severe food shortages in the coming months and require relief assistance, the report warned. Given the availability of rice and generally well-functioning markets within Myanmar, the report recommends that assistance be provided in the form of cash or vouchers to assist vulnerable people to purchase food.
The report is based on a Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) conducted in Myanmar in November-December 2015 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
It found that flooding has exacerbated vulnerability to malnutrition in areas where children were already malnourished, most notably in Rakhine and Chin states. Additional assistance is required to rebuild livelihoods in these areas to ensure long-term recovery, the report said.
Impact on crops, livestock and fisheries
Although the extensive flood waters initially caused severe crop losses, especially of rice, farmers were able to replant a large portion of the damaged areas once the waters receded. The CFSAM estimated that national paddy production for 2015 would be 3 percent below the 2014 crop and 2 percent down on the average of the past three years. Although the impact of the floods on crops was limited at the national level, in the worst affected region/states, particularly Chin and Rakhine, paddy production is set to fall by up to 15 percent, constraining food access and pushing consumer prices up.
High losses in livestock and fisheries – including 23 000 hectares of damaged shrimp ponds – were reported in areas where the impact of the cyclone was most severe, including Rakhine and Sagaing. This has not only negatively affected people’s livelihoods but also reduced their ability to meet protein-intake needs.
“In addition to the urgent rebuilding of livelihoods through the provision of crop seeds, livestock, the rebuilding of fishing gear and boats as well as the rehabilitation of fish and shrimp ponds, we are also ensuring a focus on longer term interventions which enable farmers and communities to better cope with future emergencies,” said Bui Thi Lan, FAO Representative in Myanmar.
Mr Domenico Scalpelli, WFP Resident Representative and Country Director, underscored the necessity of cash assistance for the resumption of livelihoods, to enable highly vulnerable populations to avoid localised food shortages in the coming months.
“As affected households have faced difficulties in obtaining credit, cash assistance is necessary to resume their livelihoods. Since October 2015, WFP has employed cash transfers in relief activities, following its prompt life-saving food assistance within 48 hours of the devastation of national disaster. In addition, WFP has been implementing cash or food for asset activities from November to provide income generation opportunities for affected people primarily relying on day labour. Above all, reconstruction of safer community infrastructure will reinvigorate communities’ resilience.”
Key recommendations for immediate assistance include:
- Distribution of seeds for the forthcoming monsoon planting seasons.
- Water and pest-resistant storage containers to protect farmer’s seeds, along with drying nets and post-harvest equipment.
- Urgent replacement of livestock to avoid a fall in protein intake.
- Distribution of fishing equipment, rebuilding of fishing gear and boats and rehabilitation of fish ponds.
- Increasing the availability of smaller farm machinery for hire.
The report also provides a set of recommendations for long-term recovery, resilience building and disaster risk reduction. These include: developing grain banks at communal and regional levels to reduce post-harvest losses; constructing micro-dams in suitable areas and establishing a National Information and Early Warning Unit on Food and Nutrition Security.
Since 2 August, WFP has been implementing flood relief response, at the request of the Government. By the end of 2015 WFP had reached half a million people affected by the floods and massive landslides, through relief and community asset rehabilitation activities in Ayeyarwaddy, Bago, Chin, Kachin, Kayin, Magway, Mon, Rakhine and Sagaing States and Regions. WFP intends to continue its flood response for 104 000 people until mid-2016 through relief, community asset rehabilitation and nutrition projects with an aim to prevent further deterioration of food security and nutrition situation in the country. WFP currently faces a funding shortfall of US$47 million to meet all food assistance needs in Myanmar till the end of 2016.
In 2016, FAO aims to meet the immediate agricultural needs of 332 750 individuals still recovering from the 2015 floods. To date, FAO’s resilience program in Myanmar has secured financial resources and will provide assistance to around 150 000 farmers and fisher people in the worst-affected areas of Rakhine, Chin and Sagaing. As recommended in the CFSAM, FAO activities will focus on livelihoods support through provision of agricultural inputs including seeds, fertilizer and hand tools and livestock restocking (chickens, ducks, goats and pigs). In addition, resilience-building initiatives will include rehabilitation and/or rebuilding of household and community assets, mapping of disaster risk reduction systems and training farmers in disaster risk reduction skills to enable them to recover quicker and make best use of emergency recovery inputs provided. In order to meet all targeted beneficiaries, FAO requires further funding of US$7.1 million.