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Cablegate: Working to Feed Burma,S Hungry

VZCZCXRO5009
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHGO #1139/01 3300713
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 260713Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6890
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0731
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1625
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 4687
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 4281
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 7822
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5382
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 1272
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 1257
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 0141
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 3406
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1182
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 001139

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, F, PRM
STATE FOR USAID/DCHA/OFDA KY LUU, ROBERT THAYER, TOM ROGERS
STATE FOR USAID/DCHA/OFDA DAA GREG GOTTLIEB
BANGKOK FOR OFDA SENIOR REGIONAL ADVISOR TOM DOLAN
KATHMANDU FOR OFDA REGIONAL ADVISOR WILLIAM BERGER
GENEVA FOR USAID NANCY KYLOH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PHUM PGOV ECON BM
SUBJECT: WORKING TO FEED BURMA,S HUNGRY

REF: A. RANGOON 952
B. RANGOON 874

RANGOON 00001139 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary. According to international NGOs,
malnutrition rates are increasing in Northern Rakhine State
(NRS). In the past year, humanitarian organizations have
seen a 380 percent increase in severely malnourished patients
seeking treatment due to drought, flood, and inflation.
Action Contre La Faim (ACF), an NGO that runs several
therapeutic feeding centers in NRS, reported that an average
of 53 people a day sought treatment at the Sittwe feeding
center during the first 10 months of 2007. ACF, which has
secured funding from ECHO through January 2008, has submitted
a proposal for additional funding. Post strongly supports
ACF's work in Burma and recommends the Department fund the
proposal. End Summary.

Rising Rates of Malnutrition
----------------------------

2. (SBU) Francois Olive-Keravec, Action Contre La Faim
(ACF) Head of Mission, told us that malnutrition continues to
be a problem in Northern Rakhine State. In August,
Olive-Keravec explained that humanitarian organizations
working in NRS saw a sudden upswing in severe malnutrition
(Ref B). Between June and August 2007, ACF, which runs
several therapeutic feeding centers in NRS, saw a 380 percent
increase of severely malnourished patients at their clinics.
The ACF clinic in Sittwe, the largest city in Rakhine State,
reported that an average of 53 people per day sought
treatment for malnutrition during the first 10 months of
2007.

3. (SBU) Although ACF treated fewer patients in September
and October, Olive-Keravec explained that the situation in
NRS was not improving. The lower than expected rainfall
during the 2007 rainy season severely affected the people of
Northern Rakhine State, who depend on agriculture and fishing
for their livelihoods. The droughts damaged food stocks and
led to a decrease in overall food production. Olive-Keravec
also noted that Sittwe Township, which does not produce
enough rice to feed its people, depends on rice imports from
lower Burma. The GOB's unannounced fuel price hike in August
also played a role in increasing malnutrition, as rice prices
in Rakhine State rose 20 percent. A majority of Burmese, who
live hand-to-mouth, spend more than 70 percent of their
salaries on food; the unavailability of food and the higher
prices of rice in the NRS have increased malnutrition rates.

4. (SBU) Olive-Keravec also highlighted that thirty-one
percent of malnourished children admitted into ACF's feeding
clinics had associated diseases. These children first
contracted infections, such as diarrhea or malaria, which
left them weak and unable to eat. Malnutrition does not
always occur because of lack of food. Lack of access to
health services and the inability to treat diseases make the
people of NRS more susceptible to disease.

Why Rakhine State?
------------------

5. (SBU) Rakhine State is one of the more underdeveloped
places in Burma. For years, the GOB has neglected parts of
Rakhine State, particularly the NRS, by minimizing
investments in health and education. Northern Rakhine State
is home to Burma's Muslim Rohingya population. The GOB

RANGOON 00001139 002.2 OF 002


refuses to grant them citizenship, and severely limits their
ability to earn a living by tightly restricting their freedom
of movement. Olive-Keravec explained that 95 percent of
ACF's therapeutic feeding centers beneficiaries are Muslim.
ACF and other humanitarian organizations provide this
marginalized population with medical care, fulfilling one of
the Rohingya's basic needs.

Proposal
--------

6. (SBU) Olive-Keravec submitted a proposal to us,
requesting funding for ACF's programs in Sittwe in 2008. ACF
received funding this year from ECHO, which runs out in
January 2008. The program has three specific objectives: to
treat severe acute malnutrition through therapeutic feeding;
to treat moderate acute malnutrition through a supplementary
feeding program; and to prevent malnutrition and improve
mother/child care practices. The total requested was
$820,000, which would fund ACF's clinic from February
2008-January 2009. Olive-Keravec explained that if that
amount was not available, ACF could prioritize its program
and focus on the first and third objectives. This would
bring their total budgetary needs to $525,000. Although ACF
only requested funding for one year, Olive-Keravec stated
that ACF plans to continue the program as long as it is
needed. Embassy Rangoon will forward the complete proposal
and budget breakdown via email to EAP, F, and PRM for review.


Comment
-------

7. (SBU) Most Burmese are poor, subsisting on $1 a day or
less. The Rohingyas, Burma's poorest and arguably most
oppressed people, would not survive were it not for the work
of humanitarian organizations such as ACF. By supporting
feeding programs, like ACF's, we directly thwart the Than
Shwe regime's efforts to eliminate the most vulnerable
people. We recommend USG support for these humanitarian
programs.

VILLAROSA

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