Rats cause hunger in Myanmar

By December 11, 2009

Myanmar (MNN/GFA) — A booming bamboo crop is causing dire problems for people in an area of Myanmar. 50 families in a village in Myanmar's Chin state are facing a severe famine due to the rats eating their food. They are also being afflicted with unknown illnesses, and their children have been unable to attend school.

Zaw Dara, a national missionary supported by
Gospel for Asia, is ministering to these families in every way he can. He is also there to offer comfort, a listening ear and words of hope from the Scriptures to these people who are suffering so much.

The heart-wrenching crisis the people of this village and many others throughout Chin state are going through today has a name — mautam. "Mau" is the Burmese word for bamboo, and "tam" means famine. The rat infiltration was triggered by the blooming of a certain species of bamboo plant — a phenomenon that takes place just once about every 50 years. The most recent blooming began in 2006.

Rats are drawn to the nutritious fruit created by the blooms, which increases their fertility and greatly multiplies their birthrate. They strip the bamboo plants of their fruit and seeds and plow their way through other crops as well, devouring grain, corn and rice. They even dig up and eat the seeds farmers planted in the ground.

The plague of rats has ravaged Myanmar's already-impoverished Chin state for two years now, wiping out 75 to 80 percent of its crops, according to some estimates. Families are being forced to scavenge for food such as edible leaves, shoots, roots and tree bark, as their rice harvest and other staples are being devoured by rats.

According to a report published by the Chin Human Rights Organization, more than 54 people have reportedly died from health problems related to the food crisis.

"I have never seen such a huge number of rats," a Burmese farmer told Asia Times Online. "I had thought we could easily drive out the rats and protect our crops. But just before the rice was ready to be harvested, the rats came and ate all the rice in the fields in just one night. We lost all our rice.

Making matters worse, Myanmar's repressive military junta is denying access to international aid organizations who may want to bring in assistance, even in the face of such widespread suffering. But  national missionaries supported by GFA who were already in the country before the rat plague hit, are committed to reaching out, offering hope and comfort to these people who are hurting so much.

GFA leaders request prayer for the Lord's intervention and protection upon the people in Chin, Myanmar, and that many will find lasting hope in the midst of their suffering.

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