Food insecurity is rising sharply in Myanmar in the wake of the military coup and deepening financial crisis with millions more people expected to go hungry in coming months, the United Nations said yesterday.
Up to 3.4 million more people will struggle to afford food in the next three to six months with urban areas worst affected as job losses mount in manufacturing, construction and services and food prices rise, a World Food Program (WFP) analysis shows.
"More and more poor people have lost their jobs and are unable to afford food," country director Stephen Anderson said in a statement.
"A concerted response is required now to alleviate immediate suffering, and to prevent an alarming deterioration in food security."
The WFP said market prices of rice and cooking oil had risen by 5% and 18% respectively since the end of February, with signs that families in the commercial capital of Yangon were skipping meals, eating less nutritious food, and going into debt.
Myanmar's army seized power from the democratically elected civilian government on Feb.1, plunging the Southeast Asian nation into turmoil and cracking down on mass protests and a nationwide civil disobedience movement with brutal force, killing more than 700 people, a monitoring group said.
The warning comes as seven Southeast Asian leaders are expected to attend a summit to discuss the crisis, according to diplomats and officials in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital where tomorrow's meeting will be held.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who led the coup, is expected to participate in the summit of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), the sources said.
Thailand's PM and the president of the Philippines have said they would send their foreign ministers.
The meeting is the first concerted international effort to ease the crisis in Myanmar. It is also a test for Asean, which traditionally does not interfere in the internal affairs of a member state and operates by consensus.
It was imperative there was "a concrete and tangible outcome," said Rizal Sukma, senior research fellow at the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies and, until last year, Indonesia's ambassador to the United Kingdom.
"The summit cannot be another round of expression of concern."