Acute food shortages threatening 8,885 villagers in 118 villages across northern Papun District

11 May 2011

At least 8,885 villagers in 118 villages in northern Karen State say they have run out of food or will do so before the October 2011 harvest, according to information released Wednesday by the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG). Because of limited financial resources, local humanitarian organisations have been unable to provide emergency assistance. Recent research by KHRG indicates that the current food crisis in Lu Thaw Township is directly linked to attacks on villagers by Burma’s state army, the Tatmadaw, which have caused displacement and created food insecurity that was recently compounded by a severe drought.

Families told KHRG they had already run out of food, or that they did not expect their food stores to last until the next harvest,” said KHRG Field Director Saw Albert, whose research team conducted 41 interviews in the affected area during February and March 2011. “This food crisis is challenging villagers’ ability to survive in hiding without becoming displaced again or more vulnerable to attacks and other human rights abuses.

KHRG’s report details the causes of the current food shortage, and analyses the humanitarian consequences of mass displacement as tens of thousands of civilians in Lu Thaw have gone into hiding in remote upland areas to avoid Tatmadaw attacks and other abuses, which remain ongoing. This has isolated families from productive agricultural land and placed immense pressure on food production in areas where villagers are best able to evade attacks. Villagers attempting to survive in such areas are exceedingly vulnerable to external shocks to their livelihoods, and a lack of rain during the most recent monsoon appears to have marked a tipping point between perennial food insecurity and the acute food crisis now threatening at least 8,885 villagers in Lu Thaw Township.

The impact of food shortages on the civilian population is magnified by budgetary constraints of local relief organisations. Because of limited donor support, organisations normally able to access affected areas of eastern Burma are currently unable to provide emergency assistance to all those in acute need. KHRG’s report argues that emergency assistance is vital to support villagers for whom displacement to areas where they can better avoid Tatmadaw forces remains the only effective means of protecting their human rights.

Emergency assistance to villagers facing food shortages should be prioritised and pursued by any actor that wants to promote human rights in eastern Burma,” said Saw Albert. “Villagers have told us they would like to remain near their homes and lands, but that some families might become refugees or try to farm on land where they are more vulnerable to attacks if they can’t find more food. Emergency assistance will support villagers’ efforts to protect their human rights by helping them overcome the food insecurity they face while living in hiding.”

The report is available online at and hard copies can be obtained by emailing Print-quality photos for inclusion in news articles and video footage of villagers in Karen State are also available on request.

The Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) was founded in 1992 and documents the situation of villagers and townspeople in rural Burma through their direct testimonies, supported by photographic and other evidence. KHRG operates independently and is not affiliated with any political or other organisation. Examples of our work can be seen online at

For interviews in Karen, English or Burmese or more details of the report, please contact Saw Albert via e-mail at or by phone at +66 (0) 82-1625199.

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