Cyclone survivors fear food aid is set to end soon

By SAW YAN NAING

Cyclone survivors in Laputta Township in the Irrawaddy delta are struggling with a recent reduction in food distributed by the World Food Program (WFP) and are worried that international food aid will soon dry up altogether, according to sources in Laputta.

Some sources in the area said that the WFP will stop delivering food by the end of October, as relief efforts shift to reconstruction projects in the cyclone-affected region.

Aye Kyu, a resident of Laputta, said that many cyclone survivors are turning to other local people to supplement their meager supply of food, while some are making ends meet by catching fish and crabs and growing vegetables. They are all worried about what will happen if the WFP stops distributing staple foods such as rice, oil and beans, he said.

“If the WFP stop its food distribution, cyclone survivors will definitely be in trouble,” said Aye Kyu.

He also said that cyclone survivors are now facing difficulty in finding drinking water, as there has been no rain for the past ten days. As Burma’s rainy season comes to a close in the coming weeks, the lack of drinkable water is likely to become an even more severe problem.

Paul Risley, a spokesperson for the WFP, confirmed that his organization has reduced its distribution of food, but was unable to verify reports that it was planning to stop providing food relief at the end of October.

“I don’t have any specific information on that right now,” said Risely. “At present, we are continuing distribution.”

Meanwhile, another resident of Laputta said that local donors—another important source of aid—have stopped visiting refugees living on the outskirts of town because of restrictions imposed by the Burmese authorities.

“The authorities ask every visitor to report about their visit,” she said. “They check every visitor.”

A relief worker in Bogalay Township also reported that the WFP is reducing food deliveries to cyclone survivors in the area, as local authorities oversee a shift to reconstruction work.

He added that residents of Shwe Pyi Aye, a village in Bogalay, are now being forced by the authorities to work on reconstruction projects every day. He claimed that people who refuse to work are fined 2,000 kyat (US $1.70).

Laputta and Bogalay were among the areas most severely affected by Cyclone Nargis when it struck on May 2-3. According to official Burmese estimates, the cyclone left around 140,000 people dead or missing.

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