Rat plague hits Myanmar hard

By January 6, 2009

Myanmar (MNN) — The bamboo growth cycle in Southeast Asia
has hit the flowering stage, and with it comes a plague of destruction.

Daniel Punnose (p'nohs) with
Gospel For Asia describes the
situation in Myanmar. "The rats increase dramatically during that time, and
they just destroy the food and everything around there. Bamboo is a food, a
building material, it's what they use for paper, for medicine." 

The rats eat the fruit/seeds which support an acceleration
in the birthrate.  Once the rats eat all
the bamboo plants, they turn to anything else in the area for a food
source. As a result, they destroy other
fields, devouring grain, corn and rice.

GFA reports that at least 40 children have died, and more
than 100,000 are living on the brink of starvation.   

The irony is that Myanmar recently granted free export of
rice from rice-producing Yangon region.

Despite the food crisis within its borders, a report from
the Xinhua news agency says the government wants agricultural entrepreneurs to
make greater efforts for exporting more rice, saying the country has enough
cultivable land to boost paddy production.

However, there is not much information being released on the
famine and rat crisis. The last time
bamboo bloomed nearly a half century ago, the season lasted a few months. This time, it has gone on for over a year,
and the famine has deepened. Worse yet,
Myanmar's junta government is intercepting aid. 

A GFA missionary says the rat infestation is most severe in
Myanmar's Chin state, at its western border with India. 79 villages are directly affected by the
famine. In the five worst-hit districts, no food has been harvested for a full
year. The crisis has resulted in a myriad of related health problems, including
malaria, typhoid, diarrhea and skin problems.

Punnose says their teams are doing all they can to help. The government bans aid workers from outside
organizations, but their teams already live and work in the affected areas. "It actually provides us with
opportunities to share the love of Jesus with people. Our missionaries and our people are there at
the places where people are most affected. We're able to reach out with
food and help in killing these rats. It
gives us the opportunity to tell them how much Jesus loves them and how much we
want to help them."

Ask the Lord to put a shield of protection around the missionaries as they distribute aid to those most in need. Pray, too, that each of the Christians who
live in Myanmar would model Christ's love during this time of great difficulty.
Click here if you can help.

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