Carlos Veloso, WFP Country Director for Myanmar, recently stopped by the WFP USA office in Washington, D.C., to brief staff on the state of WFP operations in the country. WFP is currently working to build safety nets through programs that encourage long-term development.
Myanmar, the largest nation in Southeast Asia with a population of 57.5 million people, suffered through a disastrous cyclone in October 2010. Cyclone Giri destroyed 61 percent of the rice harvest and damaged 685 embankments protecting fields and farming households. In the aftermath of the disaster, WFP distributed 7,636 tons of food to nearly 200,000 people whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed. Just over two years later, WFP is now moving from disaster relief to longer-term work focused on creating safety nets and rebuilding livelihoods to ensure that if a disaster like Cyclone Giri occurs again, the impact would not be so devastating.
According to Mr. Veloso, one of WFP Myanmar’s most successful initiatives is its Food for Education program. In this program, hungry families are encouraged to send their children to school because students receive meals at school as well as food to take home to their families. In 2010, WFP provided take-home rations of rice to 266,000 children as an incentive for their families to send them to school.
Food for Education has become so successful that now WFP is now expanding its reach to include nutrition programs in which children receive biscuits fortified to prevent vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies, such as anemia, that undercut a child’s development. WFP is also working with UNICEF to address the quality of schools and teachers.
Another important WFP program, Food for Work, provides food to people who agree to work on community-designated projects, allowing communities to make necessary investments in critical infrastructure. In exchange for food, community members in Myanmar are helping to build schools, create water systems, and terrace mountain sides for sustainable agriculture.
These programs not only provide food for hungry people in immediate need, but also are investing in communities with an eye to the future. Mr. Veloso believes that these investments in education and infrastructure—made possible by Food for Education and Food for Work—will create long-lasting impacts for Myanmar and its people.
By: Amanda Peña, Public Policy Intern