Aid to Burma now!
The cyclone Nargis has already claimed tens of thousands of lives in Burma. The obstructive policies of the Burmese military junta may claim thousands more.
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On May 2nd Cyclone Nargis slammed into Burma and caused massive destruction.
– There may well be over 100,000 deaths in the delta area, Shari Villarosa, the US charge d’affaires in Yangon, told AFP.
The death toll is likely to continue climbing, as more than one million people may be homeless and vast areas of the nation’s rice paddies have been flooded with salt water.
Unlike most of the calamities striking the Burmese people the last 60 years, Cyclone Nargis was (obviously) neither planned nor created by the ruling military junta. However, the junta is at least in part responsible for the number of Burmese lives taken by the monster storm. Even though the junta knew the cyclone had been building for days, they did not give the people more than a couple of hours’ notice that the storm was coming.
No help from the government
According to the Independent, there has been little evidence that the authorities are doing anything to help, even though vast areas have been without electricity or fresh water since the cyclone struck. In fact, the brutal and stubborn military regime is one of the main obstacles for the international aid agencies waiting to go in with supplies to the victims. International relief organizations, including some UN agencies, are still waiting for visas to enter the country. The few who are working inside Burma face strict control of movement and communications, in addition to problems caused by the devastated infrastructure.
In an email to The Independent, an aid worker in Burma wrote:
“It is not Rangoon that is worst hit, at least people are alive. Today a team called in and said they’ve arrived on the tip of the Irrawaddy delta; 40,000 dead in one village. […] And the government won’t allow NGOs to work in areas where they don’t have official permission. Of the 40 NGOs working in Burma, only four have permission to work in the affected area.”
Responsibility to protect – right to intervene
Because the Burmese junta will not let the relief agencies do their work, Caryl Stern, who heads the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) in the US now fears that the aftermath could be far more lethal than the storm itself.
According to the United States Campaign for Burma, the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner (one of the founders of Doctors Without Borders) has proposed a solution to this problem. The United Nations recognized in 2005 the concept of “responsibility to protect” civilians. When governments will not protect their people, the UN has the right to intervene. Kouchner has urged the UN Security Council to pass a binding resolution that would allow the international community to send aid to Burma whether the Burmese regime likes it or not.
Add your voice to Kouchner’s call; tell UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to publicly call for a UN Security Council action demanding that the Junta allow international aid workers to enter the country and help the cyclone victims!
Map: CIA / Wikimedia Commons