Myanmar slums dig for food in sewers

A man sells eels in a slum in Yangon, Myanmar.


In March, after hitting the first wave of coronoviruses to hit Myanmar, Ma Soo, 36, closed her salad stall and took her jewelry and gold jewelry to buy food to eat.

During the second wave, when the government issued a suspension order for Yangon in September, Ma Soo again closed her stall and sold her clothes, plates and utensils.

With nothing to sell, her husband, who is no longer under construction, has resorted to food in open ravines in slums on the outskirts of Myanmar’s largest city.

“People eat mice and snakes,” Ma Soo said through tears. “Without an income, they have to eat this way to feed their children.

They live in Haling Thar Yar, one of the poorest areas of Yangon, where locals glow in the basement behind their homes, one day looking for a creature to satisfy their hunger.

While rats, reptiles and insects are often eaten by families in rural areas, people are now reduced to receiving nutrition in some urban areas as they can.

With more than 40,000 cases and 1,000 deaths, Myanmar faces one of Southeast Asia’s worst coronovirus outbreaks, and a lockdown in Yangon has left hundreds of thousands without Ma Suu, jobless, and little precious support.

A person cooks dinner for their family in a hut in Yangon, Myanmar.

Local administrator Nai Min Tun said 40% of families in Hling Thar Yaar have been helped, but many workplaces have been closed and people have become more desperate.

The region’s ruling party lawyer Maayat Min Thu said government aid and private donations were being distributed, but admitted that not everything could be covered.

The crisis has cast a shadow over the general election to be held on November 8, although Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is still expected to win by a comfortable margin.

Nothing outside the market

Even before the outbreak, a third of Myanmar’s 53 million people were considered “highly vulnerable” to poverty, with recent progress after the country emerged from decades of devastating isolation under the military junta. Despite.

Financial pressure now threatens many people to return to poverty or eliminate the possibility of their exit.

Poverty in East Asia and the Pacific region in developing countries is increasing for the first time in 20 years due to COVID-19, the World Bank said in September, with an estimated 38 million people expected live or be pushed back into poverty.

The Myanmar government has offered a one-time food package and three $ 15 cash grants to poor families as part of its relief program, but families say it’s too low.

In April, an Ono Myanmar poll of more than 2,000 people across the country found that 70% had stopped working and a quarter had taken out loans for food, medicine and other essentials.

Gerard McCarthy, a postdoctoral fellow at the Asian Research Institute in Singapore, said sectors in exile in Myanmar include garment work and tourism.

“Households are already in debt before paying for medical care, schooling, the elderly and maintenance of daily living … Many people will have to pay these debts before they can To start spending anything discretionary,” says -he.

Myanmar historian Thint Myint-Yu has argued for the absence of a proper social safety net and the collapse of village social protection systems.

“For the dozens of Myanmar’s poor, there is nothing more than a market that offers opportunities to do informal work in cities in good times or to migrate abroad, but during the recession, the poor have little more than a shirt on their backs. “Leave,” he said.

(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)

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