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Food Security and human rights in Burma

Individual Documents

Title: Diagnosis: Critical – Health And Human Rights in Eastern Burma
Date of publication: 19 October 2010
Description/subject: Executive Summary: "This report reveals that the health of populations in conflict-affected areas of eastern Burma, particularly women and children, is amongst the worst in the world, a result of official disinvestment in health, protracted conflict and the abuse of civilians..."Diagnosis: Critical" demonstrates that a vast area of eastern Burma remains in a chronic health emergency, a continuing legacy of longstanding official disinvestment in health, coupled with protracted civil war and the abuse of civilians. This has left ethnic rural populations in the east with 41.2% of children under five acutely malnourished. 60.0% of deaths in children under the age of 5 are from preventable and treatable diseases, including acute respiratory infection, malaria, and diarrhea. These losses of life would be even greater if it were not for local community-based health organizations, which provide the only available preventive and curative care in these conflict-affected areas. The report summarizes the results of a large scale population-based health and human rights survey which covered 21 townships and 5,754 households in conflict-affected zones of eastern Burma. The survey was jointly conducted by the Burma Medical Association, National Health and Education Committee, Back Pack Health Worker Team and ethnic health organizations serving the Karen, Karenni, Mon, Shan, and Palaung communities. These areas have been burdened by decades of civil conflict and attendant human rights abuses against the indigenous populations. Eastern Burma demographics are characterized by high birth rates, high death rates and the significant absence of men under the age of 45, patterns more comparable to recent war zones such as Sierra Leone than to Burma’s national demographics. Health indicators for these communities, particularly for women and children, are worse than Burma’s official national figures, which are already amongst the worst in the world. Child mortality rates are nearly twice as high in eastern Burma and the maternal mortality ratio is triple the official national figure. While violence is endemic in these conflict zones, direct losses of life from violence account for only 2.3% of deaths. The indirect health impacts of the conflict are much graver, with preventable losses of life accounting for 59.1% of all deaths and malaria alone accounting for 24.7%. At the time of the survey, one in 14 women was infected with Pf malaria, amongst the highest rates of infection in the world. This reality casts serious doubts over official claims of progress towards reaching the country’s Millennium Development Goals related to the health of women, children, and infectious diseases, particularly malaria. The survey findings also reveal widespread human rights abuses against ethnic civilians. Among surveyed households, 30.6% had experienced human rights violations in the prior year, including forced labor, forced displacement, and the destruction and seizure of food. The frequency and pattern with which these abuses occur against indigenous peoples provide further evidence of the need for a Commission of Inquiry into Crimes against Humanity. The upcoming election will do little to alleviate the situation, as the military forces responsible for these abuses will continue to operate outside civilian control according to the new constitution. The findings also indicate that these abuses are linked to adverse population-level health outcomes, particularly for the most vulnerable members of the community—mothers and children. Survey results reveal that members of households who suffer from human rights violations have worse health outcomes, as summarized in the table above. Children in households that were internally displaced in the prior year were 3.3 times more likely to suffer from moderate or severe acute malnutrition. The odds of dying before age one was increased 2.5 times among infants from households in which at least one person was forced to provide labor. The ongoing widespread human rights abuses committed against ethnic civilians and the blockade of international humanitarian access to rural conflict-affected areas of eastern Burma by the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), mean that premature death and disability, particularly as a result of treatable and preventable diseases like malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory infections, will continue. This will not only further devastate the health of communities of eastern Burma but also poses a direct health security threat to Burma’s neighbors, especially Thailand, where the highest rates of malaria occur on the Burma border. Multi-drug resistant malaria, extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis and other infectious diseases are growing concerns. The spread of malaria resistant to artemisinin, the most important anti-malarial drug, would be a regional and global disaster. In the absence of state-supported health infrastructure, local community-based organizations are working to improve access to health services in their own communities. These programs currently have a target population of over 376,000 people in eastern Burma and in 2009 treated nearly 40,000 cases of malaria and have vastly increased access to key maternal and child health interventions. However, they continue to be constrained by a lack of resources and ongoing human rights abuses by the Burmese military regime against civilians. In order to fully address the urgent health needs of eastern Burma, the underlying abuses fueling the health crisis need to end."
Language: Burmese, English, Thai
Source/publisher: The Burma Medical Association, National Health and Education Committee, Back Pack Health Worker Team
Format/size: pdf (OBL versions: 5.3MB - English; 4.4MB Thai; 3.5MB-Burmese) . Larger, original versions on BPHWT site
Alternate URLs: http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs11/Diagnosis_critical(th)-red.pdf
Date of entry/update: 05 September 2011

Title: Attacks on cardamom plantations, detention and forced labour in Toungoo District
Date of publication: 13 May 2010
Description/subject: This field report documents recent human rights abuses committed by SPDC soldiers against Karen villagers in Toungoo District. Villagers in SPDC-controlled areas continue to face heavy forced labour demands that severely constrain their livelihoods; some have had their livelihoods directly targeted in the form of attacks on their cardamom fields. In certain cases individuals have also been subjected to arbitrary detention and physical abuse by SPDC soldiers, typically on suspicion of having had contact with the KNU/KNLA after being caught in violation of stringent movement restrictions. Villagers living in or travelling to areas beyond SPDC control, meanwhile, continue to have their physical security threatened by SPDC patrols that practice a shoot-on-sight policy in such areas. This report covers incidents between January and April 2010.
Language: English, Karen
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG #2010-F4)
Format/size: pdf (918K)
Alternate URLs: https://web.archive.org/web/20100730233048/http://www.khrg.org/khrg2010/khrg10f4.pdf
Date of entry/update: 10 October 2010

Title: Burma Human Rights Yearbook 2008
Date of publication: 23 November 2009
Description/subject: TABLE OF CONTENTS: 1. Arbitrary Detention and Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances...2. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment...3. Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions...4. Landmines and Other Explosive Devices...5. Production and Trade of Illicit Drugs...6. Trafficking and Smuggling...7. Forced Labour and Forced Conscription...8. Deprivation of Livelihood...9. Environmental Degradation...10. Cyclone Nargis – From natural disaster to human catastrophe...11. Right to Health...12. Freedom of Belief and Religion...13. Freedom of Opinion, Expression and the Press...14. Freedom of Assembly, Association and Movement...15. Right to Education...16. Rights of the Child...17. The Rights of Women...18. Ethnic Minority Rights...19. Internal Displacement and Forced Relocation...20. The Situation of Refugees...21.The Situation of Migrant Workers...EACH OF THESE CHAPTERS CAN HE INDEPENDENTLY READ AND DOWNLOADED
Language: English
Source/publisher: Human Rights Docmentation Unit of the NCGUB
Format/size: html (21K - hyperlinked index ); pdf (13MB) 1092 pages - full pdf text
Alternate URLs: http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs08/HRYB2008.pdf (full pdf text - 13MB)
Date of entry/update: 05 December 2009

Title: Starving them out: Food shortages and exploitative abuse in Papun District
Date of publication: 15 October 2009
Description/subject: "As the 2009 rainy season draws to a close, displaced villagers in northern Papun District's Lu Thaw Township face little prospect of harvesting sufficient paddy to support them over the next year. After four straight agricultural cycles disrupted by Burma Army patrols, which continue to shoot villagers on sight and enforce travel and trade restrictions designed to limit sale of food to villagers in hiding, villagers in northern Papun face food shortages more severe than anything to hit the area since the Burma Army began attempts to consolidate control of the region in 1997. Consequently, the international donor community should immediately provide emergency support to aid groups that can access IDP areas in Lu Thaw Township. In southern Papun, meanwhile, villagers report ongoing abuses and increased activity by the SPDC and DKBA in Dwe Loh and Bu Thoh townships. In these areas, villagers report abuses including movement restrictions, forced labour, looting, increased placement of landmines in civilian areas, summary executions and other forms of arbitrary abuse. This report documents abuses occurring between May and October 2009..."
Language: English, Karen
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG #2009-F18)
Format/size: html, pdf (861 KB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/sites/default/files/khrg09f18.pdf
Date of entry/update: 24 October 2009

Title: IDP responses to food shortages in Nyaunglebin District
Date of publication: 10 April 2009
Description/subject: "Since the beginning of 2009, SPDC troops have patrolled areas near displaced hiding sites in Nyaunglebin District. These patrols prevent displaced villagers from cultivating their secret crops or otherwise accessing food, which in turn exacerbates food insecurity for these civilians. Despite such hardships, villagers have responded by cooperating with each other-often sharing food or helping each other cultivate crops and sell goods in 'jungle markets'. This report describes the situation of displaced villagers in Nyaunglebin District from December 2008 to March 2009..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group Field Reports (KHRG #2009-F7)
Format/size: html, pdf (751 KB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/sites/default/files/khrg09f7.pdf
Date of entry/update: 31 October 2009

Title: Critical Point - Food Scarcity and Hunger in Burma’s Chin State _ 2008 (Special Reports)
Date of publication: July 2008
Description/subject: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: "The military regime of Burma has been consistent in their inability and unwillingness to protect and provide for the people of Burma. Burma’s human rights record provides testimony of decades of widespread violations and abuses perpetrated largely at the hands of Burma’s military rulers and their agents against the Burmese people. Dissent is regularly silenced and opponents brutalized. In a country once known as the “rice-bowl of Asia,” Burma is now one of the poorest countries of Asia due to steady economic deterioration driven by the regime’s mismanagement. Many in Burma live without access to proper schools, healthcare facilities, reliable electricity, safe drinking water, and stable food supplies. Cowed by policies of extreme oppression and tactics of intimidation, life for much of the population in Burma is a struggle for daily survival. Add to that a natural disaster- and survival in Burma reaches a critical point. Western Burma’s Chin State is at such a point. Since 2006, the region has been plagued by a severe food crisis following a steep reduction in the local harvest and food production. The year 2006 marked the beginning of a new cycle of bamboo flowering, which occurs about every 50 years in the region, triggering an explosion in the population of rats and resulting in the destruction of crops. This has caused a severe shortage of food for local communities primarily dependent on subsistence farming through shifting cultivation. The phenomenon has been documented three times since 1862, and each past event ended in a disastrous famine for the communities in the area. Compounding the impending food crisis in Chin State due to the bamboo flowering is the continuation of severe human rights violations and repressive economic policies of the military regime, which serve to further undermine the livelihoods and food security of the Chin people. The use of unpaid civilian forced labour is widespread throughout Chin State, which consumes the time and energy of local farmers and reduces their crop yields. The regime also forcibly orders farmers to substitute their staple crops for other cash crops, and has confiscated thousands of acres of farmland from local farmers for tea and jatropha plantations. Meanwhile, arbitrary taxes and mandatory “donations” collected from Chin households by the Burmese authorities total up to as much 200,000 Kyats a year in major towns.2 This includes the unofficial collection of money from the Chin public by officials in various government departments at the local level to support such programs as tea and bio-fuel plantations; and extortion and confiscation of money, properties, and livestock by military units stationed at 33 locations across the state. The rising cost of living and skyrocketing food prices is also adding to the already dire humanitarian situation in Chin State. In the last four years, the price of rice has quintupled from 6,000 Kyats a bag in 2004 to as much as 30,000 Kyats today, an amount equivalent to the monthly salary of entry level public servants. The humanitarian consequences stemming from the dying bamboo and exacerbated by conditions imposed by the regime are enormous, and there are clear indications that unless urgent action is taken to address the crisis, the situation could soon turn into a large-scale catastrophe affecting all parts of Chin State. The hardest hit areas are in the southern townships of Matupi and Paletwa where bamboo grows heavily, but reports suggest that severe food shortages are a state-wide phenomenon with many villages in the northern townships of Tonzang and Thantlang, for example, having already run out of food supplies. Based on the latest field surveys conducted in the affected areas, Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) estimates that as many as 200 villages may be directly affected by severe food shortages associated with the bamboo flowering, and no less than 100, 000 people or 20 percent of the entire population of Chin State may be in need of immediate food aid.3 Food scarcity is more severe in remote areas, where families are being reduced to one meal a day or have nothing left to eat at all. CHRO recently visited four border villages in India’s Mizoram State where it found 93 families from 22 villages in Paletwa Township, Chin State who fled across the border in search of food. To date, Burma’s State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has done nothing positive to counter the food scarcity, nor has the SPDC provided any kind of help to communities affected by the food crisis. Repeated requests by affected communities for food aid were denied, even as 100,000 metric tonnes of rice was exported to Sri Lanka.4 Rather, Burma Army soldiers have seized food aid donated by private donors and church groups.5 In contrast to the situation in Burma, India’s Mizoram and Manipur States, both adjacent to Chin State, are facing a similar food crisis related to the bamboo flowering, and have received millions of dollars in aid from the central government as well as international aid agencies, including USAID of the United States government, to support emergency programs to combat and manage the food crisis.6 In early May, when Cyclone Nargis ripped through lower Burma and the Irrawaddy delta destroying entire regions of land and leaving thousands homeless, hungry, and helpless, the regime clearly demonstrated their complete indifference to the plight of the Burmese people. In response to this natural disaster, they did shamefully little to ease the suffering of the victims and much to hamper relief efforts. As a result, the people of Burma paid a heavy price in the loss of life and continue to struggle under a regime that fails to protect or provide for its people. As another natural disaster unfolds in western Burma without hope of internal protections or provisions, the Chin people, like the cyclone victims, will be sure to pay a heavy toll unless action is taken immediately. The critical point for action is now."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO)
Format/size: pdf (731K, 640K)
Date of entry/update: 09 July 2008

Title: Pa’an District: Land confiscation, forced labour and extortion undermining villagers’ livelihoods
Date of publication: 11 February 2006
Description/subject: "Villagers in northern Pa'an District of central Karen State say their livelihoods are under serious threat due to exploitation by SPDC military authorities and by their Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) allies who rule as an SPDC proxy army in much of the region. Villages in the vicinity of the DKBA headquarters are forced to give much of their time and resources to support the headquarters complex, while villages directly under SPDC control face rape, arbitrary detention and threats to keep them compliant with SPDC demands. The SPDC plans to expand Dta Greh (a.k.a. Pain Kyone) village into a town in order to strengthen its administrative control over the area, and is confiscating about half of the village's productive land without compensation to build infrastructure which includes offices, army camps and a hydroelectric power dam - destroying the livelihoods of close to 100 farming families. Local villagers, who are already struggling to survive under the weight of existing demands, fear further forced labour and extortion as the project continues."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG)
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 14 February 2006

Title: Starving Them Out: Forced Relocations, Killings and the Systematic Starvation of Villagers in Dooplaya District
Date of publication: 31 March 2000
Description/subject: "This report consists of an Introduction and Executive Summary, followed by a detailed analysis of the situation supported by quotes from interviews and excerpts from SPDC order documents sent to villages in the region. As mentioned above, an Annex to this report containing the full text of the remaining interviews can be seen by following the link from the table of contents or from KHRG upon approved request..." Forced Relocations, Killings and the Systematic Starvation of Villagers in Dooplaya District
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group Regional & Thematic Reports (KHRG #2000-02)
Format/size: html
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/khrg2000/khrg0002.html
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003