YANGON — Thousands of people are facing a food crisis in the remote Naga Self-Administered Zone on the Myanmar-India border in northern Sagaing Region, according to regional lawmakers and a local body.
The mountainous townships of Lahe and Namyun routinely deal with food shortages, particularly during wet season when routes are flooded, according to the Council of Naga Affairs (CNA).
But this year, the situation has been intensified as the region struggles to cope with the aftermath of a measles outbreak, the destruction of more than 1,000 acres of paddy fields by insects, and military blocks on both sides of the borders cutting off supplies.
“Food shortages in the area are not only in the villages, but also in Namyun town,” Namyun MP U Sein Maung told The
Irrawaddy on Monday. “I’ve already reported it to the township administrator but have had no response yet. Locals recently shared food with many of those who were in need.”
Namyun’s town administrator was unavailable for comment on Monday.
Both Namyun and Lahe have a population of about 50,000. According to Lahe MP U Law Yone, residents of Lahe town have rice, but its surrounding villages have little food.
“Lahe elders discussed the crisis with a member of the Indian parliament yesterday and asked for the [Indian military] gate to open for the supply of food and basic commodities,” U Law Yone told The Irrawaddy.
The CNA President Athong Makury sent a letter to the Indian Governor of Nagaland PB Acharya, asking to allow “the famine-ridden villagers” to cross the border on “humanitarian grounds.”
More than 92 villages are located in the border area, noted the letter, populated by Konyak, Lainong and Tangshang tribes.
The only accessible location where basic needs such as rice, salt, and medicine can be retrieved is Mon town on the Indian side of Nagaland, it read.
CNA also called on the Myanmar government to negotiate with its Indian counterpart about allowing for the flow of supplies and aid across the border to “stop the suffering of the people in Nagaland.”
CNA spokesperson Ke Jung said, “The [Myanmar] government is well-informed of this problem. It is shocking to see that it has no proper plans to address the matter.”
The struggle for food has been exasperated by a measles outbreak last year, which drove locals to abandon their crops. Meanwhile, residents in Pangsau town in Namyun saw insects destroy more than 1,000 acres of paddy fields.
After clashes with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) last December, the Myanmar Army imposed a strategy in line with a “four-cuts” policy, blocking access to food, funds, information, and recruitment in the area around the historic Stilwell Road, the main transportation route for supplies to Namyun.
In its handling of a local insurgency, Indian security forces have blocked border points between Pangsau and Nampong town of Arunachal Pradesh and other areas in Mon and Lahe since January 2017.