Creating livelihood opportunities in conflict-affected communities in Rakhine

Creating livelihood opportunities in conflict-affected communities in Rakhine

06/05/2016

Life as a widow in Warcha village, Rakhine State is not easy. An Bira Hatu says she cannot afford the cost (around USD25 per month per child) of sending her children to the secondary school in the village down the road, but she hopes this will change next year. Her and her three children aged 10 to 16 rely on food assistance and the income from the children’s casual agricultural labour to survive. “Now we are receiving FAO assistance with goats, we will be able to generate more income. With the extra income we will use the money to buy food and use the rest for the children to attend school,” says An Bira Hatu.

In conflict-affected areas of northern Rakhine, malnutrition rates are high and protein consumption low. In the townships of Buthidaung and Maungdaw, where Warcha is located, the percentage of children consuming the minimum acceptable diet is alarmingly low, at two and three per cent respectively. “We have rice and some vegetables three times a day. Sometimes, if I have extra money I will be able to buy fish,” she continued.

With the highest poverty rate in the country - a staggering 78  per cent according to World Bank figures - Rakhine is one of the least developed areas of Myanmar. Three years on from significant outbreaks of inter-communal violence across the State, hundreds of thousands of people remain in need of humanitarian assistance and more than 100 000 people are still displaced in camps. Over one million Muslims, most of whom call themselves “Rohingya” but who the Government refers to as “Bengali”, have unresolved citizenship status, affecting their access to services and freedom of movement.

To compound this further, Rakhine was one of the worst-hit parts of Myanmar during the floods associated with Cyclone Komen in 2015. Over 10 000 homes were destroyed, and 20 per cent of the State’s paddy fields were damaged, along with more than 13 000 hectares of fish ponds and 23 000 hectares of shrimp ponds. Paddy crop yields are estimated to have decreased by up to 15 per cent following the disaster. With funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund, FAO is providing assistance to 3 300 conflict- and flood-affected households in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships.

Before the winter crop season, FAO provided 1700 households with paddy seed, cowpea and vegetable seeds to help them recover from losses due to the flooding. In the area of livestock, FAO provided 1600 households with goats and pigs and training in animal care and breeding. “FAO’s project in northern Rakhine State aims to improve income-generating opportunities and diversify livelihoods through the provision of livestock and agricultural inputs. At the same time, we are increasing access and availability of food, particularly high quality animal proteins, to cover basic needs and improve nutrition.  This helps communities to be more resilient to withstand future natural disasters,” said FAO Myanmar’s Emergency Coordinator, Mr Andrea Berloffa.

In total, FAO’s CERF-funded project is assisting more than 18 000 conflict-affected individuals in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships of northern Rakhine. This is part of FAO’s broader emergency programme in Myanmar, with projects in Sagaing, Chin and Rakhine. FAO has called for USD 12.1 million to provide assistance to 332 750 conflict- and flood-affected people under the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan for Myanmar. A further USD 7.6 million is urgently required to reach this total target population.