Home
Oo Eain, a Mother and Entrepreneur, Waiting For Her Chance

In October 2011, Oo Eain, her husband, Mine Tun Aye, and their one year-old son, Mine Aung Kyaw, were forced to abandon their home, their farm and almost all their possessions when their small village in Kachin State, Myanmar, became a battleground between the military and ethnic armed groups.

They fled through fields and forests before finding sanctuary first in a monastery and later in Namh Khan camp for displaced people in neighbouring Shan State. The camp provides a temporary home for some of the thousands of people displaced by conflict in this part of Myanmar.

Oo Eain describes running a small grocery shop and raising chickens in her village, while her husband farmed two acres of paddy fields. Life in the camp is very different: her husband usually gets the chance to work just a couple of days a month as a labourer, for which he earns about €3 per day. For Oo Eain, although her chickens are gone, her entrepreneurial spirit remains strong: she sells groceries to other families in the camp, and makes a small profit.

Since their arrival in Namh Khan, the biggest event for the family was the birth of a daughter, Lwe Aye Hnin Wai, ten months ago. Everyone is in good health, but Oo Eain says that food is the family’s main priority: “So long as we have rice, we can manage. When we have rice in our house (…) we housewives don’t worry. We can think of the curries and other foods later. Rice is the most important thing.”

With funding from the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO), WFP can also provide her family with a monthly cash grant of approximately €20. Oo Eain normally spends this on vegetables, enough meat or fish for one dinner per week, and some fruit and eggs for her children. She says that little remains at the end of the month for her savings or to increase the turnover of her mini-grocery shop.

When asked what the family meal means to her, Oo Eain replies: “It’s like a village meeting for our community. In our family, meal time is the only time of day when we’re all together. Also, in the future, the kids should have that habit, to have a sense of unity. I hope when they are a bit bigger we can talk about different things. For now, we mostly spend time persuading them to eat the right foods. They like snacks more than rice, so I have to explain: ‘Son, if you eat this potato, you will get strong. If you have these beans, you will grow up. If you eat your spinach, you will stay healthy.’ They need to be convinced!”

Oo Eain’s hope for the future is that her husband will be able to return to work on their farm. With some savings, she can then start a small business nearer the town, where her children can get a better education than in the village. For now, WFP aims to make sure that a lack of food affects neither her family, nor hinders her ambitions.

  • Oo Eain, holds her baby daughter Lwe Aye Hnin Wai, alongside her husband, Mine Tun Aye, and four year-old son, Mine Aung Kyaw.
    Oo Eain, holds her baby daughter Lwe Aye Hnin Wai, alongside her husband, Mine Tun Aye, and four year-old son, Mine Aung Kyaw.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Mine Aung Kyaw at the WFP distribution with his father, ready to collect their cash grant, a bag of SuperCereal for his little sister, and the famliy’s rice ration.
    Mine Aung Kyaw at the WFP distribution with his father, ready to collect their cash grant, a bag of SuperCereal for his little sister, and the famliy’s rice ration.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Mine Aung Kyaw at the WFP distribution with his father, ready to collect their cash grant, a bag of SuperCereal for his little sister, and the famliy’s rice ration.
    Mine Aung Kyaw at the WFP distribution with his father, ready to collect their cash grant, a bag of SuperCereal for his little sister, and the famliy’s rice ration.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Thanks to funding from the EU, each family in the camp receives a cash grant of approximately €5 per person, per month, to diversify their diets as they choose. The grant value is based on the cost of food on local markets.
    Thanks to funding from the EU, each family in the camp receives a cash grant of approximately €5 per person, per month, to diversify their diets as they choose. The grant value is based on the cost of food on local markets.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Rice is a staple food throughout Myanmar. In Kachin and Shan States, in the north-east, paddy fields feature in almost every landscape.
    Rice is a staple food throughout Myanmar. In Kachin and Shan States, in the north-east, paddy fields feature in almost every landscape.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Since 2013, 95 percent of the rice, chickpeas and salt which WFP distributes in Myanmar has been purchased in the country, contributing more than €40 million to the national economy and encouraging local agricultural production.
    Since 2013, 95 percent of the rice, chickpeas and salt which WFP distributes in Myanmar has been purchased in the country, contributing more than €40 million to the national economy and encouraging local agricultural production.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Mine Aung Kyaw carries home a bag of SuperCereal for his baby sister. It is a blend of wheat and soya, reinforced with micronutrients essential for infants’ healthy development during their first 1,000 days.
    Mine Aung Kyaw carries home a bag of SuperCereal for his baby sister. It is a blend of wheat and soya, reinforced with micronutrients essential for infants’ healthy development during their first 1,000 days.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Oo Eain says that she spends most of the cash grant on vegetables. She also likes to buy some eggs for the children. The grant allows them to eat meat, but only once a week.
    Oo Eain says that she spends most of the cash grant on vegetables. She also likes to buy some eggs for the children. The grant allows them to eat meat, but only once a week.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Back at the camp, Oo Eain starts preparing the food in the communal kitchen.
    Back at the camp, Oo Eain starts preparing the food in the communal kitchen.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Today’s  main meal is fried potatoes with garlic and tomato, spiced water spinach, chickpea soup and some rice.
    Today’s main meal is fried potatoes with garlic and tomato, spiced water spinach, chickpea soup and some rice.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Today’s  main meal is fried potatoes with garlic and tomato, spiced water spinach, chickpea soup and some rice.
    Today’s main meal is fried potatoes with garlic and tomato, spiced water spinach, chickpea soup and some rice.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • What gets discussed at the dinner table? Most of the time the parents are persuading the children to eat the right foods: “If you eat this potato, you will get strong, if you have this bean, you will grow up. If you eat this spinach, you will stay healthy”...And it seems to be working!
    What gets discussed at the dinner table? Most of the time the parents are persuading the children to eat the right foods: “If you eat this potato, you will get strong, if you have this bean, you will grow up. If you eat this spinach, you will stay healthy”...And it seems to be working!
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Oo Eain ran a small grocery shop in her village before the conflict arrived on their doorstep. She wants to start up again and already sells products from the local market to other families in the camp at a small profit. “Education is better here than in the village. (…) If I can stay here to take care of my kids, my husband would go back and earn money working in our paddy fields. That is my plan and hope.”
    Oo Eain ran a small grocery shop in her village before the conflict arrived on their doorstep. She wants to start up again and already sells products from the local market to other families in the camp at a small profit. “Education is better here than in the village. (…) If I can stay here to take care of my kids, my husband would go back and earn money working in our paddy fields. That is my plan and hope.”
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
Our cooperation in Myanmar

Myanmar has an estimated population of 58 million comprising 135 different ethnic groups. The country is categorized as one of the world's least-developed states, ranking 150 out of 187 countries in the 2013 UNDP Human Development Index.

Access to adequate and nutritionally-balanced food in Myanmar is a major challenge for the poorest and most vulnerable among the population, especially in rural border areas; 26 percent of the population is below the poverty line and nearly 3 million people are considered food-poor. The nationwide prevalence of stunting among children under-five is 35 percent, indicative of a high public health problem - by international standards.

Lengthy local conflicts have led to the displacement of people in eastern and southeastern Myanmar, which already faced high levels of poverty and food insecurity. Inter-communal violence recently broke out in parts of the country, leading to widespread damage and displacement. In addition, a large section of the population living in Northern Rakhine State remains stateless and impoverished. In Shan State, many families face the challenge of changing from opium production to alternative sources of income, to comply with the government’s poppy eradication measures. The country is prone to recurrent natural disasters such as floods and drought as well as tropical cyclones and storms, such as cyclone Nargis, which hit the country in 2008.

The strong partnership with the EU continues to be one of the most important for WFP in the fight against hunger in Myanmar. The EU supports WFP’s current protracted relief and recovery operation and is among its top three funding partners in the country. In 2014, the EU, though ECHO, has contributed €6.7 million in support of live saving food assistance to displaced populations in Kachin, northern Shan and Rakhine States. The EU’s reliable funding and advocacy efforts with the Government of Myanmar are vital for WFP to carry out its mission effectively and efficiently. In these and other areas, the EU has continuously confirmed its role as a true humanitarian leader.

Today, Myanmar is at a turning point in its history and at the centre of political and economic interests both in the region and beyond. Despite recent changes, tangible progress in economic and social development as well as the provision of basic services across the country will take time.