ASIA: Discrimination and lack of action by states contributing to ongoing widespread malnourishment and starvation

Date: March 5, 2010
Document id: ALRC-COS-13-12-2010
Speaker: Michael Anthony
HRC section: Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

An Oral Statement to the 13th Session of the UN Human Rights Council from the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization in general consultative status

ASIA: Discrimination and lack of action by states contributing to ongoing widespread malnourishment and starvation

Thank you, Mr. President,

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) welcomes the work of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. We note that of the 18 countries concerning which the mandate issued communications in the last year, one third of these were in South and South-East Asia, including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

The ALRC regrets the lack of responses from the Philippines and Indonesia to date. The ALRC has recorded numerous starvation deaths in Indonesia, especially in Papua province. During the first half of 2009, some 113 villagers are known to have died of starvation in seven districts in Yahukimo. The government has denied these deaths and has repeatedly delayed the distribution of food and medicine.

Similarly, the ALRC deplores the lack of a response by the government of India to an allegation letter last year concerning its failing food distribution systems. India has the highest number of malnourished children in Asia. UNICEF�s 2009 report revealed that more than 80% of cases of child malnutrition and mortality were found in the tribal and low caste communities there.

The ALRC has submitted a written statement that includes the issue of starvation deaths in Madhya Pradesh, where 60% of children are undernourished and where we have documented 43 starvation deaths of children in the last three months.

On June 6, 2008, your mandate noted that the enjoyment of the right to food �requires that we focus on the most vulnerable segments of the population.� Has the Rapporteur noted any actions by governments in Asia to ensure such a focus?

Furthermore, is the Rapporteur aware of and taking action concerning attacks on human right defenders working on the right to food in India? The ALRC has documented four serious cases in the last year, including attacks on the offices of Ms. Medha Patkar in Madhya Pradesh.

Finally, Oxfam recently reported an estimated 3.4 million persons facing life-threatening conditions due to a lack of food in Nepal. We note your mandate�s request for a country visit. Have you received any response from the government of Nepal concerning this request and will you be re-iterating it in light of the severity of the problem there?

Thank you.

About ALRC

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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