Author Topic: Cyclone stricken Myanmar and Earthquake striken China  (Read 3183 times)

Offline Sassafras

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Cyclone stricken Myanmar and Earthquake striken China
« on: May 13, 2008, 08:07:30 PM »
While China copes with the devastation of a 7.8 earthquake killing more than 12,000 people, the victims of Myanmar suffer from inadequate aid supplies due to the lack of a sympathetic government.  All the Burmese government is thinking about is how they can make money off their own people by selling food which was given to the victims through what little humanitarian efforts that have been received.

How much more does the Myanmar survivors have to endure?  Isn't the loss of lives tragic enough?

My  *2cents*

Here are some articles I found of interest:

Myanmar cyclone victims getting low-quality supplies
YANGON, Myanmar - Many cyclone victims are getting spoiled food from Myanmar's junta instead of the high-quality supplies being delivered by foreign governments and charities, victims and aid workers said Tuesday.

A longtime foreign resident of Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon, told The Associated Press in Bangkok by telephone that angry government officials have complained to him about the military misappropriating aid.

He said the officials told him that quantities of the high-energy biscuits rushed in on the World Food Program's first flights were sent to a military warehouse.

They were exchanged by what the officials said were "tasteless and low-quality" biscuits produced by the Industry Ministry to be handed out to cyclone victims, the foreign resident said.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because identifying himself could jeopardize his safety.

He said it was not known if the high quality food was being sold on the black market or consumed by the military.

A government spokesman did not immediately respond to an e-mailed query from the AP seeking a comment. The allegations were impossible to confirm independently because of the massive restrictions imposed by the junta on journalists.

The military — which has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1962 — has taken control of most aid sent by other countries including the United States, which made its first aid delivery Monday and sent in another cargo plane Tuesday with 19,900 pounds of blankets, water and mosquito netting. A third flight was to take in a 24,750-pound load. U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Douglas Powell said that the situation remained fluid, but that flights were expected to continue after Tuesday — which appears to broaden the original agreement for three flights on Monday and Tuesday.

Myanmar state television said navy commander in chief Rear Adm. Soe Thein told Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of the U.S. Pacific Forces, that basic needs of the storm victims are being fulfilled and that "skillful humanitarian workers are not necessary."

The U.N. said that the World Food Program is getting in 20 percent of the food needed because of bottlenecks, logistics problems and government-imposed restrictions.

CARE Australia's country director in Myanmar, Brian Agland, said members of his local staff brought back some of the rotting rice that's being distributed in the devastated Irawaddy Delta.

"I have a small sample in my pocket, and it's some of the poorest quality rice we've seen," he said. "It's affected by salt water and it's very old."

It's unclear whether the rice, which is dark gray in color and consists of very small grains, is coming from the government or from mills in the area or warehouses hit by the cyclone.

"Certainly, we are concerned that (poor quality rice) is being distributed," Agland said by telephone from Yangon. "The level of nutrition is very low."

Many survivors also said they were either not getting any aid or were being handed rotten, moldy rice.

"There is obviously still a lot of frustration that this aid effort hasn't picked up pace" 10 days after the cyclone hit, said Richard Horsey, the spokesman for the U.N. humanitarian operation in Bangkok, the capital of neighboring Thailand.

Still, the WFP said it had not heard of its supplies disappearing.

"We've had no reports whatsoever about any incidents of this kind," Marcus Prior, a WFP spokesman, said in Bangkok.

Cyclone Nargis devastated the delta on May 2-3, leaving about 62,000 people dead or missing according to the government count. The U.N. has suggested the death toll is likely to be more than 100,000.

With their homes washed away and large tracts of land under water, some 2 million survivors, mostly poor rice farmers, are living in abject misery, facing disease and starvation.

The survivors are packed into Buddhist monasteries or camping in the open, drinking water contaminated by fecal matter, with dead bodies and animal carcasses floating around. Food and medicine are scarce.

The foreign resident also said several businessmen have been told to give the government cash donations of no less than $1,800 each to aid cyclone victims.

Companies involved have included jade mining concerns in Hpakant, restaurants and construction companies in Yangon, he said.

The government has also barred nearly all foreigners experienced in managing such catastrophes from going to the delta west of Yangon, and is expelling those who have managed to go in.

Jean-Sebastien Matte, an emergency coordinator with Doctors Without Borders, said his foreign staff have repeatedly been forced to return to Yangon from the delta.

Armed police checkpoints were set up outside Yangon on the roads to the delta, and all foreigners were being sent back by policemen who took down their names and passport numbers.

"No foreigners allowed," a policeman said Tuesday after waving a car back.

Yangon was pounded by heavy rain Monday and more downpours were expected throughout the week, further hindering aid deliveries.

For many, the rainwater was the only source of clean drinking water.

European Union nations appealed to Myanmar's military leaders Tuesday to let in international aid to cyclone victims, saying that failing to do so could amount to a crime against humanity.

"At this moment the most important objective is to get the humanitarian aid inside the country. There are many people that are suffering and therefore to help them ... we have to use all the means to help those people," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters ahead of special EU talks meant to coordinate aid efforts for Myanmar.

Source:  (AP)

Aid Given to Myanmar Despite Junta's Refusal To Allow Relief Workers
Bill Gates' donation is about as much as the total money pledged by the U.S. government -- US$3.25 million (EU2.11 million). But Myanmar's military government has refused to allow United States relief planes to fly in. It also refuses to give visas to United Nations experts who want to assess the damage and manage logistics.
The Myanmar junta's stubborn refusal to let in foreign aid workers has not stopped donors -- from billionaire Bill Gates to a little-known British travel company -- from opening their wallets.

The aid includes a luxury river cruise liner loaned by the travel company to a charity for transporting relief material, and 25,000 shoes sent by a U.S-based group for the survivors of Saturday's devastating cyclone that left more than 60,000 people dead or missing.

The Gates Foundation donated US$3 million (EU1.94 million) for emergency relief efforts in Myanmar, and will provide software to help reunite family members separated in the cyclone, Gates, the Microsoft Relevant Products/Services chairman, told The Associated Press on Friday.

The funds were transferred to the aid agencies Mercy Corps, Worldvision and Care "so they can go in there and help as quickly as possible," Gates said.

Gates' donation is about as much as the total money pledged by the U.S. government -- US$3.25 million (EU2.11 million). But Myanmar's military government has refused to allow U.S. relief planes to fly in. It also refuses to give visas to U.N. experts who want to assess the damage and manage logistics.

As of Thursday, the U.N. had recorded donations to Myanmar relief totaling US$25 million (EU16.23 million) from 28 nations, the European Union and charities. An additional US$25 million (EU16.23 million) has been pledged by donors.

The figure jumped Friday with the Gates Foundation's pledge and another US$10 million (EU6.49 million) that Japan promised to give through international organizations such as the United Nations Children's Fund, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Program.

Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, a British company that operates river cruises on the Irrawaddy river in Myanmar, said it was handing over one of its luxury liners to British charity Merlin.

"I think we all feel that this is a country that has touched us in some way," said Paul Strachan, the owner of the ship. "Now we can repay the (Myanmar people) for all the warm hospitality and enriching experiences we have in the past enjoyed there."

The company said the large dining room of Pandaw IV will be converted to a clinic and existing cabins used to accommodate the relief team. A number of Myanmar doctors have volunteered to help out on the ship.

The boat will carry supplies from the riverside town of Henzada, which is also close to an airport that can receive airlifted supplies, Strachan said.

Another boat, Pandaw II, is currently in Mandalay undergoing engine repairs and "as soon as we can move her she will relocate down to the delta," he said.

Meanwhile, Soles4Souls, an international charity based in Nashville, Tennessee, announced it had sent 25,000 pairs of shoes to the cyclone victims, but the shipment was stopped pending approval by Myanmar authorities.

"Among the supplies caught in the holding pattern are tens of thousands of pairs of new puncture-resistant work boots, athletic shoes, and sandals for children, donated by Soles4Souls and its partners around the world," the company said in a statement.

In Taipei, a Taiwanese Buddhist leader defended the junta's refusal to let foreigners in, saying Myanmar soldiers and civilians have been already mobilized to transport aid material by ships and helicopters.

The materials include those sent in by foreign countries, said Master Hsin Tao, who returned from Yangon after assessing the cyclone damage.

"They rejected international aid workers out of distrust of the foreigners," he said. "They try to handle the relief work by themselves as much as possible because they don't have the time to deal with external criticism."

"Foreigners may not be able to conduct effective relief work because the villages are in remote areas and many bridges were swept away in the flood," he added.

Source:  (By Vijay Joshi)

As US, Burma Talk, Volunteers Say Junta Is Selling Aid
A US admiral met with Burma's military command today in continued attempts to persuade the government to allow US servicemen into the country to assist in relief efforts, the Washington Post reports. Meanwhile, a Burmese volunteer operating his own supply effort tells the Daily Telegraph that government officials are commandeering supplies to sell at public markets.

"If they see our relief supplies, they will come over and say 'don’t worry, give that to us, we will distribute it for you',” the volunteer said. "But we know that for every 10 sacks of rice we give them … six will end up being sold in some local town." Foreigners headed to stricken areas are being turned away, a theme familiar to US military officers. "We are ready to respond as soon as the Burmese give us permission," said Adm. Timothy Keating. "We did not get that permission today."

Source:  (Washington Post, Daily Telegraph (UK))

It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens. ~~Baha'u'llah

The chief idols in the desecrated temple of mankind are none other than the triple gods of Nationalism, Racialism and Communism, at whose altars governments and peoples, whether democratic or totalitarian, at peace or at war, of the East or of the West, Christian or Islamic, are, in various forms and in different degrees, now worshiping. ~~Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come