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The World Food Programme (WFP) says it has cut its humanitarian aid assistance to displaced persons in Meikhtila, central Burma.
“From March 2013 to August 2014, WFP provided food assistance to over 10,000 displaced people in Meikhtila camps,” the agency’s Rangoon office told DVB by email on Thursday. “WFP monitoring and evaluation missions to the camps concluded that the assisted population had adequate access to livelihood and income generating opportunities. They possessed other coping mechanisms and were able to resume their normal pre-March 2013 activities.
“In the light of increasing needs for food assistance in Myanmar [Burma], WFP was urged to prioritise emergencies and support to the most vulnerable communities in the country. Meikhtila population no longer fell under these categories.”
Displaced residents of Meikhtila, mostly Muslims who lost their homes in communal riots last year, say they have been facing food shortages since the WFP announced the cuts.
Tin Ko, an IDP at one of the three remaining displacement camps in Meikhtila, said some 3,500 inhabitants in the camps have not been receiving any food rations from the WFP for two months.
“The WFP was previously providing us with rice, cooking oil, salt and beans, but they stopped in August,” he said, adding that many people in the camp are now taking up manual labour jobs to make ends meet, while others have resorted to begging in the streets.
Tin Ko said several private philanthropists used to bring donations to the IDPs in the past, but nowadays they receive little.
Abbot Batdanda Seintita of the Asia Light Foundation, a charity group that donated aid to the Meikhtila IDPs last year, said, “I have not been told about any food shortages. If I had been made aware, I would have sought donations for them.”
Around 10,000 people were displaced in communal violence that broke out in the central Burmese town in late March 2013, sparked by a quarrel between a Muslim and a Buddhist in a gold shop.
Meanwhile, BBC Burmese reported on Thursday night that WFP plans to cut its entire ration across the country by 20 percent in November.
WFP spokesperson Emilia Casella is quoted saying that the WFP “plans to cut rice rations to IDP camps in Burma by up to 20 percent due to a budget shortage”. The report said around 70,000 IDPs in Shan and Kachin states and tens of thousands in Arakan State will be affected.
Ms Casella reportedly said the WFP has a US$8 million shortfall in budget between now and February. It would therefore cut rice rations across the board. However, other essential supplies would not be affected, she said, pointing to cooking oil, beans and special food supplements for mothers and children.
Ms Casella said the WFP has requested assistance from donors to provide more food aid in Burma, and that if such funds become available then the 20 percent ration cut will only be temporary.