UN calls on Myanmar’s government to do more to raise its people out of poverty

14 September 2004 – Concerned that Myanmar is not achieving the growth needed to improve the lives of all its citizens, the United Nations emergency feeding agency today called on the South Asian country’s government to step up its efforts toward social and economic reforms for the benefit of its desperately poor and needy people.

“Myanmar and its people have so much potential to achieve the solid economic growth that could lift millions out of poverty,” World Food Programme (WFP) Deputy Executive Director Sheila Sisulu said at the end of a four-day visit.

“We are trying to help some of the neediest, but the real underlying fact remains that the government has to pursue the reforms that are obvious and necessary,” she added.

Ms. Sisulu, who is on a tour of four Asian countries – Nepal, Myanmar, India and Bangladesh – stressed that Myanmar is one of Asia’s poorest countries but has tremendous human and natural resources. She said that in her talks with government officials, she emphasized that a much stronger shift toward good governance was essential for the country’s successful development.

“I saw deprivation, genuine want among the Myanmarese when I went to the Northern Shan State,” she said of a visit to children and teachers in a WFP school feeding programme in Pan Phate village. “Not enough priority is being placed on the real needs of the citizens.”

WFP has been assisting poor and marginalized people, some of them returned refugees from Bangladesh, in North Rakhine State for the past 10 years. Last November it began providing the food component of home-based care packages to families with HIV/AIDS as well as emergency food rations to farmers switching from heroin-producing poppies to alternative crops.

Ms. Sisulu is scheduled to travel today to India, where she will play a leading role in the three-day Asian Ministerial Consultation on Maternal and Child Nutrition, co-sponsored by WFP and the Government of India and opening tomorrow in New Delhi.

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