(Bloomberg) — Myanmar’s food security crisis is deepening due to loss of farmland to conflict and plummeting crop yields, prompting families to cut meal portions or skip cheaper and less nutritious foods.

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Inflation is rising in the country controlled by the military junta, while humanitarian needs have intensified as fighting continues. Along with high fertilizer and fuel costs that have hurt agricultural production, the loss of farmland and crops will play an even bigger role in worsening food insecurity, according to Stephen Anderson, director of the World Food Program in Myanmar.

“Conflict and food insecurity unfortunately still co-exist,” Anderson said in an interview. “Conflict drives people to run for protection leaving their farmlands behind, and disrupts and undermines livelihoods.

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More than 1.3 million people are displaced in Myanmar, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Food prices jumped 64% last month from a year ago, increasingly putting staples like rice and cooking oil out of reach for many. About a quarter of the population of 55 million is food insecure, with some going into debt to buy basic necessities, Anderson added.

poverty and hunger

Globally, high food prices due to the war in Ukraine and soaring energy costs have pushed millions of people into poverty, amplifying hunger and malnutrition. The humanitarian situation in Myanmar will strain resources already stretched due to Ukraine, Afghanistan and other crises, Anderson said.

The Southeast Asian nation is grappling with soaring inflation and dwindling foreign currency reserves amid international sanctions following the 2021 military coup. Last week, the Group of financial action blacklisted Myanmar, which joined North Korea and Iran on its high-risk list, for failing to curb illicit financial flows. Entities and individuals in Myanmar will now face increased due diligence from global financial institutions.

WFP is struggling to deliver aid in Myanmar due to roadblocks and travel restrictions. It also faces a funding shortfall of $72 million over the next six months to ensure support for 4 million beneficiaries. Some food and cash assistance may be discontinued in the coming months, Anderson said.

“We are forced to make tough decisions in terms of prioritization,” he said. “Indeed, we will have to choose which families will receive our support and which families will go without.”

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