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Cablegate: Burma: Wfp Struggles to Reach the Starving

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OO RUEHBZ RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHGO #1155/01 3341142
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 301142Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6904
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0744
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 4294
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 7835
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5395
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 1265
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1193
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 001155

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SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MLS, DRL, AND IO
PACOM FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM BM
SUBJECT: BURMA: WFP STRUGGLES TO REACH THE STARVING

REF: RANGOON 1146

RANGOON 00001155 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary. Burma's ruling military regime places
significant restrictions on the movements of World Food
Program (WFP) officials, as well as its cooperating partners
and donor organizations. Attendees at a November 29 meeting
on WFP issues complained that, with only a few exceptions, it
has become more difficult and time-consuming to get
permission to deliver food to relief areas throughout the
country this year. Plans to expand WFP programs in Kachin
State in 2008 will probably be postponed due to the recent
regime closure of roads leading into restricted areas. End
Summary.

2. (SBU) On November 29, the World Food Program (WFP) hosted
a meeting with its donor and partner organizations to
conclude the first year of WFP's three-year "Assistance to
Vulnerable Families in Myanmar" program. To date, the
project has received $52 million from donor organizations,
including $300,000 from the United States. The WFP and its
partner organizations work throughout Burma to establish food
security in remote areas. Its largest sub-project, "Food for
Education," provides families in selected areas with 10
kilograms of rice each month if their children attend school
regularly. The project has benefited 175,000 children thus
far. In the future, the WFP plans to enhance its
partnerships with other organizations, to focus more on
nutrition and HIV/AIDS, and to conduct a survey that maps the
vulnerability and needs in particular areas of the country.
Chris Kaye, Country Director of the WFP, contrasted the
overwhelming need for WFP relief with the regime's claim that
Burma has a food surplus, a point which he said "begs the
question of why we are even here."

Restrictions on Travel
----------------------

3. (SBU) One of the largest problems that the WFP faced in
the past year is tighter travel restrictions. Because it can
takes days or weeks for organizations to receive GOB
permission to travel, even under the umbrella of the WFP's
MOU with the regime that permits travel to project areas,
food often does not arrive in the neediest areas promptly.
Chris Kaye said that while the Southwest regional commander
granted the WFP blanket permission to travel in Northern
Rakhine State, making travel easier this year than last,
problems remain. One partner organization said that since
the September crackdown, inspections of his food trucks have
gone from taking one day to complete to taking two or three
days. Other organizations said that they must use the WFP
umbrella to access areas to carry out more complete aid
packages, beyond food distribution. Recent government
closure of roads leading to restricted areas of Kachin State
will further hinder their planned expansion of operations in
the region (reftel).

Exit Strategies
---------------

4. (SBU) Chris Kaye and Deputy Country Director Hakan Tongul
also noted the difficulty they have had in devising exit
strategies. WFP's goal in each project area is to create
ways for people to maintain livelihoods without having to
rely on continuing food donations by the WFP. However, due
to GOB travel restrictions, other organizations that might
help them build capacity cannot come into the project areas.
As a result, the WFP has fallen into the trap of providing
long-term food welfare.

Dialogue With the Government
----------------------------

5. (SBU) Hakan Tongul said that food security is increasingly
constrained because of the government's top-down policies.
The WFP and other UN organizations are unable to start and
maintain meaningful dialogue with regime decision-makers,
especially over recent months. As a result, they cannot

RANGOON 00001155 002.2 OF 002


resolve ongoing problems, and conducting their projects in
restricted areas of the country is becoming more difficult.
Chris Kaye said that all UN organizations need to work
together on rebuilding trust with the government, which has
eroded significantly.

6. (SBU) Comment. Throughout the meeting, Chris Kaye and
Hakam Tongul expressed UN organizations' frustration over
increasingly unproductive relations with the GOB. The Than
Shwe regime continues to claim that Burma produces more food
than it needs, but it also refuses to allow the WFP and other
assistance organizations access to areas where people face
starvation. The malnutrition and threat of starvation in
those areas are real. By blocking efforts to reach them with
vital assistance, Than Shwe demonstrates again that the
survival of his despotic control matters more to him that the
survival of the people of Burma. End Comment.
STOLTZ

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