Following the first wave of the coronavirus or COVID-19 that hit Myanmar in March, the 36-year-old Ma Suu closed her salad stall and also pawned her jewelry and gold for buying food, as per reports. During the second wave as the government issued a stay-home order in September for Yangon, Ma Suu shut her stall again and also slid her clothes, plates, and pots, as reported by Reuters.

Having nothing left to sell her husband who is an out of work construction laborer has turned to hunting for food in the open drains by the slum where they stay on the outskirts of the largest city of Myanmar. "People are eating rats and snakes. Without an income, they need to eat like that to feed their children," Ma Suu said.

They stay in Hlaing Thar Yar, which is one of the poorest neighborhoods of Yangon where residents shine flashlights in the undergrowth of their houses looking for few night creatures to get rid of their hunger. While insects, reptiles, and rats are mostly eaten by the families in rural areas, people staying in urban regions are now being forced to get nutrition however they can.

COVID-19 Crisis in Myanmar

Yangon
Yangon Pixabay

With over 40,000 cases ad 1,000 deaths, the country is witnessing one of the works outbreaks in Southeast Asia and the lockdown in Yangon has left hundreds of people without work. The local administrator Nay Min Tun stated that in his part of Hlaing Thar Yar around 40 percent of the households got aid but many workplaces were shut.

Myat Min Thu, the lawmaker of the ruling party for the area stated that the government aid and private donations were getting distributed but mentioned that not everyone could be covered. The crisis has also cast a shadow over the general election planned for November 8. Even before the pandemic, one-third of the country was considered highly vulnerable to falling into poverty. Poverty in developing East Asia and the Pacific region is going to rise for the first time in 20 years because of the pandemic, the World Bank mentioned in September.

The government of Myanmar has offered the poor households a one-off food package and three cash grants of $15 as part of the relief plan. A survey by the ONow Myanmar of over 2,000 people all over the country in April found that 70 percent had stopped working and a quarter of them had taken loans for food, other essentials.

A historian from Myanmar named Thant Myint-U raised his anger due to the absence of a proper social safety net and the collapse of the traditional welfare systems of the villages. "For tens of millions of Myanmar's poor, there is nothing other than the market, which in the good times provides opportunities for informal work in the cities or migration abroad but during a downturn is leaving the poorest with little more than the shirt on their backs," he stated.