Malnutrition crisis on Thailand-Burma border

Up to 5,000 Burmese children living on the Thai border face severe malnourishment, as the international donor community withdraws funds and shifts its attention back to Burma. As many as 2,000 children are experiencing stunted growth and nearly 1,000 are acutely malnourished, said Andrew Scadding, director of the Thai Children’s Trust, during an interview with Hanna Hindstrom from the Democratic Voice of Burma.

The UK-based NGO has provided food aid through local schools since 2010, but their money is running out. Global aid budgets are down and donors are redirecting much of their remaining funds into Burma’s emerging market.

“The number of agencies working on the border is falling as some agencies pull out completely and others move into Burma, which is basically sexier in PR terms and where the western governments are focusing aid,” said Scadding.

The Mae Tao clinic in Mae Sot, which treats Burmese refugees and migrants, confirmed that they see about two children each week suffering from malnutrition so advanced that they require medical treatment. They have recently lost nearly half their budget.

Dr Cynthia Maung, founder of the Mae Tao clinic, told DVB that by June they will need to start suspending or terminating some programmes, in spite of rising patient numbers. Their food aid – which supports many of the 3,500 refugee children living in boarding houses – is likely to be slashed from 25 to 15 per child per day.

The Thai Burma Border Consortium, which coordinates NGO activity in the camps, has already been forced to downsize food rations for refugees to two thirds of the recommended nutritional intake, leaving children, pregnant and breast-feeding women at particular risk.

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