Burma Cyclone


Death Toll and Missing: 134,000 dead or missing, half-a-million people left their homes: International Herald Tribune by carpediemdg

Aid agencies trying to help cyclone survivors in Burma (Myanmar) are increasingly bumping up against what appears to be a coordinated government drive to close temporary relief camps in towns and send villagers back home, sometimes by force, to fend for themselves.

Read the full article here.

–Divya



Latest News: First public comments from high-ranking Burmese military junta rep. by carpediemdg

reports that earlier today, a breakthrough was achieved following UN Sect. General, Ban-Ki-Moon’s visit to Burma. In the first public comments offered by a member of the military junta, Burmese Prime Minister, Lt. Gen. Thein Sein, finally announced that:

“Relief supplies can be transported by land, air or sea,” Lt. Gen Thein Sein told the conference, the Associated Press reported. “But if relief supplies have to be transported by water, civilian vessels can come in through Yangon port.”

Other highlights from the article:

  • Gen. Than Shwe, who did not attend Sunday’s donor meeting, has still to make any public comments on the cyclone, which left at least 133,000 people dead or missing, according to Myanmar government estimates.
  • Donors who attended the conference said they were ready to stump up more money. Many donors warned that formal pledges would be contingent on Yangon following through on its promises about access. Yangon, says it has received pledges from governments for only about one-quarter of a $200 million “flash appeal” to provide food, water, shelter and medicines for those most in need.
  • Myanmar has accepted 3,200 tons of foreign government and private aid so far. But the U.N. says that aid has only reached about a quarter of those most severely affected by the cyclone.
  • The reasons for the military’s change of position remain obscure. Here are some possible reasons offered in the Journal’s article:- Rising concern about the scale of the crisis appears to be a major factor.
  • The visit of the U.N. leader to the hierarchy-obsessed nation had been enough to break the
    impasse. In contrast, Gen. Than Shwe declined to meet U.N. special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim
    Gambari, during a pre-cyclone visit earlier this year.
  • Gen. Than Shwe, who is reportedly in poor health and rarely leaves the new capital, may not have
    been fully apprised of the international aid community’s demands for better access.

“This is basically a Potemkin society in which the leadership has been insulated from
unpleasantness,” said David Steinberg, director of the Asian studies program at Georgetown
University in Washington.

  • Waited to conduct its referendum on a new draft constitution, which is designed to perpetuate
    military rule. On Saturday, voting on the new constitution took place in cyclone-ravaged areas after an earlier vote was delayed. The rest of the country voted May 10 and-amid widespread reports of vote-rigging and intimidation-official results showed the constitution was approved by 92.4% of voters. With the referendum completed, Gen. Than Shwe might be more willing to allow in foreigners, Mr. Steinberg said.
  • Others said that the regime probably bowed to pressure from its own people and its neighbors,
    especially China.

Read the full article here.

–Divya



Latest News: All eyes on Myanmar and the military by carpediemdg

Cautious response to Burma pledge
BBC NEWS

Only a quarter of the 2.5m affected have received help, the UN says

Aid agencies have given a cautious welcome to the announcement that Burma’s leaders will allow all foreign relief workers into cyclone-hit areas.

The UN’s World Food Programme said the real test was whether its workers would be allowed to leave Rangoon for the devastated southern Irrawaddy Delta.

About 78,000 people died and 56,000 are missing after the 2 May cyclone.

Meanwhile, the polls have opened in the final stage of a controversial referendum on a new constitution.

Read the full article here.

–Divya



Latest News: Save the Children reaches 160,000 cyclone survivors with aid by carpediemdg

According to a recent press release by Save the Children Alliance on ReliefWeb, the organization has reached 160,632 people including more than 50,000 children with food, water, shelter materials, household supplies and oral-rehydration salts to treat diarrhea.

Other highlights from the release include:

  • The death toll from Cyclone Nargis continues to rise. Unofficial estimates from the United Nations suggest that as many as 102,000 people have died, and up to 1.9 million people have been affected.
  • Authorities have declared five regions — with an estimated total population of 24 million — to be in a state of emergency, including Yangon Division, Pegu Division, Mon State, Karen State and the Irrawaddy Division.
  • Humanitarian agencies are expressing concern about an impending hungry season, as the rice planting thatI normally begins in June may be hampered by lack of tools and supplies, as well as by land made less arable by an influx of salt water from the storm surge.
  • Even before the disaster, an estimated 30 percent of children in the region suffered from chronic malnutrition, according to health experts.
  • Throughout Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta region, many villages have been devastated, with thousands of homes destroyed, and more than 3,000 schools damaged.
  • Much of the delta is reachable only by boat, even in normal times, but many boats were destroyed in the storm — limiting the ability of storm survivors to find food, water and medical assistance.

Read the full press release here.

–Divya



Death toll and missing: Official death toll 78,000 and number of missing 50,000 by carpediemdg

The Independent reports that in just one day Burma (Burmese State Television) reported that the official death toll had risen from 43,000 to 78,000. The number of missing had similarly jumped to exactly double from 28,000 to 56,000. The UN now estimates the death toll to be as high as 200,000 whereas the Red Cross estimates 128,000, according to the article. Without proper access, there is no accurate basis to back these numbers, the article added.

Other highlights from the article:

  • An estimated 2.5 million survivors of the cyclone are facing an uphill battle to avoid disease and stand up on their feet again. (Burma’s total population is an estimated 50 million)
  • Regime claims the crisis is fully under control – roadside begging for aid along mile-long stretches outside of Rangoon suggests otherwise.
  • Red Cross warns that what survivors need most is clean drinking water if they are to not fall victims to deadly water-borne diseases.”Food is urgent, but you die in three days from acute diarrhea. You die of starvation in a period of weeks, ” said Thomas Gurtner, the head of operations for the Red Cross.
  • Myanmar Red Cross Society is currently one of the very few agents distributing aid extensively on ground. Gurtner admits that its 27,000 volunteers are not enough and they are lacking material, logistical and staff capacity to take on the challenge they are facing on the ground.
  • Military government continues to make tiny concessions – foreign diplomats will be given a tour of the severely affected Irrawaddy delta. They will be the first foreigners to inspect the region.
  • The United Nations chief humanitarian affairs officer, John Holmes, flies to Burma tomorrow for talks which he hopes will persuade the generals to open the door to foreign aid.
  • United Nations admitted it did not have a clue about the size of the emergency. At a press conference called by several UN agencies in Bangkok, the most basic data was missing, from the number of children orphaned to the extent of disease to the number of refugee camps.

Read full article here.

–Divya



Latest News: A second cyclone may affect Burma by carpediemdg

In an informative article written for Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service, which just got filed a few minutes ago, the UN’s World Meteorological Center sent out a message saying another cyclone is forming in the Burma area. The article states “it is not clear yet where the landfall will be or when it will become a full-fledged cyclone.”

Here’s a list of other informative bits from the article:

  • Relief effort is only delivering an estimated one-tenth of the supplies needed in the delta area.
  • Burma‘s State Television said the death toll has risen from 32,000 to 34,273 and the number of missing is 27,838. (The UN estimates over 100,000 dead).
  • Heavy tropical rains are making matters worse.
  • World Food Programme said it was able to move less than 20 percent of the 375 tonnes of food into the devastated Delta.
  • The military junta says it has allowed ‘aid from any nation’ to reach inside Burma but does not want foreigners distributing it.
  • The UN principle of “responsibility to protect” is underutilized – ‘the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine out­lines the conditions in which the international com­munity is obligated to intervene in another country, militarily if necessary, to prevent genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other atrocities.’
  • Burma called an “outpost of tyranny” by Washington – a phrase originally used by Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, in 2005 to describe “certain countries where she believes the government is oppressive and shows contempt for human rights and democracy.”
  • The Dalai Lama, who has traditionally refrained from making comments about the majority Buddhist-populated Burma, broke his silence on the issue. “I am shocked by the destruction, especially by the high number of people who have perished and as a result this catastrophe has compounded the problems of poverty that already exists in Burma,” he said.

Read this full article here.

–Divya



Death Toll and Missing: 100,000 estimated dead, 1.5 million at risk of dying in Burma: UN by carpediemdg

According to latest news reports including one in the Yorkshire Post, UN aid agencies estimate that 100,000 people have already perished in Burma as a result of the cyclone. The official estimates hover around 30,000.  (Reuters quoting Mynamar Sunday TV)

The  Yorkshire Post article said that the 100,000 figure could multiply 15-fold to 1.5 million, if a sluggish aid response continues. Water-borne diseases, which have already started consuming several lives, will be the big killer.

If the gravity of the situation is not understood by everyone involved, it warns that the cyclone Nargis and its aftermath could quickly dwarf the Tsunami toll of 250,000 dead.

The article quotes Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who ‘blamed the “malign neglect” of the Burmese regime for turning the disaster into a “humanitarian catastrophe of genuinely epic proportions.” ‘

Read the full article here.

–Divya