9 September 2010Almost 100,000 villagers in western Myanmar whose homes or croplands were badly damaged by floods earlier this year are rebuilding their lives under a United Nations-backed project that provides income-generating activities for locals. The scheme, supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), began in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in early July after torrential rains and strong winds a month earlier killed dozens of people and inundated swathes of countryside.Villagers have been paid for cleaning and repairing damaged houses, latrines and schools; cleaning water ponds and wells; rebuilding footpaths and jetties and reclaiming paddy fields that were covered with sand.The villagers who took part received $2 to $2.50 a day for their work, according to a press release issued today by UNDP. Many had no means of earning money following the floods.UNDP said the project, which is being carried out across 90 separate villagers, is likely to continue until later this month.
“The situation is deteriorating rapidly and WFP simply does not have the funding to respond to any increase in needs – we are already struggling to meet our current commitments,” WFP Country Director David Stevenson said. “We need cash donations urgently to enable us to buy food in the region. This is now our only chance before the full ferocity of the lean season takes its toll,” he added, stressing that WFP needs $32.8 million to feed up to 1.1 million Zambians through to the next harvest in March. Preliminary results of the southern African country’s Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) this week increased the total of people in need to at least 1.7 million because of the rocketing maize prices, which have risen by up to 60 per cent from a year ago, pushing this basic cereal beyond the reach of the poorest people.The situation is considered so serious that the Government of Zambia yesterday launched an appeal to international donors to help scale up humanitarian relief programmes with urgent food assistance. The current crisis is further exacerbated by high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates with one in five Zambians infected by the virus. Life expectancy has fallen to a mere 37 years while agricultural production at household levels has been crippled because people are either too sick to work or families are forced to spend meagre assets on medicines.“Villages are on the brink of widespread starvation – there is no maize, wild foods are exhausted, and there’s very little food aid on the way for the next six months unless the international community steps in now with cash to stave off a humanitarian catastrophe,” Mr. Stevenson said. “We have a limited amount of time to buy food in the region and get it to the hungriest before the harshest months of the lean season. The time to act is now.”