A donation given is a hungry mouth fed
One organisation is working to ease the pressure of food costs on local people.
TT’S busy on Nyi Nyunt Yay Street for a Sunday morning. While most Yangonites are still in bed or pottering around the home enjoying their time off, a crowd gathers outside the building of the Kaunt Yoe Nwe Social Organisation in Mayangon township. An orderly queue is forming. Some are sitting on plastic chairs they brought from home, or just standing around or learning against walls and chatting. The crowd seems diverse – there are people wearing little more than rags but then some have come in bright patterned longyis and pressed shirts. What everyone has in common, though, is that they are carrying bags and large water bottles.
The key to this strange event is the Kaunt Yoe Nwe Social Organisation – which has begun selling basic food stuffs, such as rice and oil, at one third the going market price – which has been inflated by the recent pressure on the Kyat. One pyi of rice (local measurement) sells for K900 at the organisation and K1,400 outside. Oil is K600 for just under 500 grams, according to U Thaung Sein, president of the organisation.
“Nowadays, people in Myanmar are facing terrible shortages in commodities and they are struggling. We want to help as much as we can by offering a low cost alternative,” U Thaung Sein explained.
Though the products are cheap, the organisation is careful not to just hand out low quality food. The rice is inspected and, though it is rough, they make sure it is clean and free of mixing with paddy reeds or any insects or dirt. They also sell vegetable oil exclusively, and do not wish to pass on palm oil.
“Palm oil is cheap but adversely affects people’s health, so, we sell more high-grade vegetable oil. Now, people can buy high-grade vegetable oil at the price of palm oil,” U Thaugn Sein said. As word of the organisation spread, donors have come to offer money to help subsidise these necessities.
“Rice, oil, salt, onions, these staples have become more expensive, and rose to K200 yesterday,” Daw Par Par, a visitor on Sunday, said. “We heard they sell at low prices and so we came to buy.”
The rules of the organisation state that one visitor can purchase a pyi of rice and 489 grams of oil. If you want to stock up, you have to bring the family with you. People waiting expressed their gratitude for the offer and said the money saved would contribute to spending on children and on medical fees.
“My boss has called me three times about being late, but I can’t go. I apologised but I need to buy this rice and that makes me sweat,” one Daw Soe Soe Win said.
U Thaung Sein was quick to point out that the social organisation is not interested in making a political statement, only in relieving the stress of ordinary people. He also said that the programme will run for as long as it is needed. “We have no allegiances to push, we just want to help people,” he said. “If an organisation like ours opens somewhere, it can improve the lives of a thousand people.”
People line up to buy rice and oil at Kaunt Yoe Nwe Social Oganization, Mayangone township, Yangon on october 14, 2018.