INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Wfp's New Program Focuses On Burma's Neediest

Published: Tue 31 Oct 2006 10:56 AM
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 001615
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TAGS: EAGR EAID ECON PGOV BM
SUBJECT: WFP'S NEW PROGRAM FOCUSES ON BURMA'S NEEDIEST
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1. (SBU) Summary: Under a new Country Director, the World
Food Program (WFP) will continue to supply food to three of
Burma's most vulnerable regions in Shan and Rakhine States,
and Magwe Division. WFP plans to consolidate these three
programs and expand operations slightly to include selected
villages that suffer from chronic food insecurity in Kachin
and Chin States. WFP will present this proposal for approval
at the November Executive Board meeting. Despite the overall
repressive environment, WFP has been able to help some of
Burma's neediest populations, both in border areas as well as
in central Burma, and we recommend support for the program.
End summary.
2. (SBU) On 30 October, new Country Director Christopher Kaye
briefed Charge on WFP's proposal, "Protracted Relief and
Recovery Operations" for 2007 to 2009. WFP plans to continue
its existing programs, including Food For Work, Food For
Training and Food for Education, in the three areas where it
currently operates. In the Dry Zone of Magwe Division,
remote villages with no access to water suffer from food
insecurity. In opium crop substitution areas of Shan State,
farmers experience difficulty in the transition to other food
or cash crops. In the Rohingya areas of Northern Rakhine
State, government controls on movement and land use make
access to food a year-round problem. WFP proposes to move
all three programs under one operational umbrella, and to
expand into nearby villages in Chin and Kachin States to
address food security vulnerabilities. WFP also will expand
its nutritional support to mothers and children.
3. (SBU) The proposal states that WFP programs are
implemented without government involvement. WFP conducts its
own assessments and then implements programs through two UN
organizations, 13 international NGOs and two local NGOs. The
new plan includes delivery of 110,000 tons of food, worth $50
million, over the next three years. This represents an
increase of about $4 million of food deliveries annually,
compared with 2005, when WFP delivered $11 million in food.
According to Kaye, and Deputy Director Hakkan Tongul, the GOB
facilitates access to vulnerable populations and provides
permission to move food supplies. Authorities have not
imposed any restrictions contained in the new NGO guidelines
on WFP, said Tongul.
Difficulties Resolved, For Now
------------------------------
4. (SBU) WFP purchases most of its food supplies in country.
When contracted suppliers experienced problems with
transportation and delivery to the regions, WFP began to
accept shipments in Rangoon or Mandalay, and then used WFP
transportation for delivery to remote areas. Remaining
distribution difficulties eased when the regional commanders
changed in Spring. WFP was also able to resolve the problem
of a 10% tax collected by the government on its purchase of
food from domestic suppliers. After WFP Director Morris
protested this practice during his visit in August, the
Minister of Commerce wrote a letter exempting these
transactions from the normal 10% tax on foreign currency
transactions.
5. (SBU) Major donors to WFP's program in Burma include
Australia, Japan, the EU, and Germany. Smaller countries,
such as Malaysia and Thailand recently have begun to
contribute. China donated 10,000 tons of food to the former
poppy growing region, and the GOB requested training from WFP
on distribution methods. These donors respond to needs that
are outlined in the proposal, including WFP estimates that
one third of children in Burma are malnourished, one fifth
are born underweight and 32% of children under 5 are
RANGOON 00001615 002.2 OF 002
underweight and stunted. The report continues that, "high
rates of chronic malnutrition indicate deteriorating food
security resulting from insufficient nutritious food, poor
access to health facilities, inadequate water and sanitation
facilities, poor maternal and child care and limited
livelihood opportunities."
6. (SBU) Comment: The proposal makes the case clearly --
government policies have led to deteriorating food security
for numerous poor, vulnerable families. We have seen their
programs at work in Northern Rakhine State and the Wa region,
and found WFP very effective. We have no reason to believe
WFP efforts in Magwe and potentially Chin and Kachin - all of
which are considered among the poorest parts of Burma - are
any less effective. We recommend supporting WFP's proposal
for 2007-09. End comment.
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