In a period of 48 hours, the announced death toll of the cyclone impacting Burma this weekend has risen from 430 to 2000 to 10,000 to 22,000 - and there is now talk of possibly 50,000 or more. Suddenly, Cyclone Nargis has become the worst natural disaster in the world since the Asian tsunami of 2004. Also, it has passed Hurricane Mitch (1998, Central America, 18,000 deaths) as the worst cyclone/hurricane in at least the last 20 years, since a cyclone in Bangladesh killed over 100,000 in 1991. Surely the intense poverty and social vulnerability in Burma has increased the death toll. The ruling military junta have created a repressive, poverty-stricken state - and unimaginable, North Korea-like conditions. Protesting Buddhist monks were brutally killed last September. They didn't need this, too.
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On a somewhat related note, I just finished reading Khaled Hosseini's book "A thousand splendid suns" over the weekend. It was an intimate account of two women's struggles to survive throughout the chaos that has been the last 30 years of history in Afghanistan. I was frustrated at the ending of the book, and how he glossed over the fact that even after the arrival of the Americans in 2001, things still remain desperate there. However, I thought he summed up well the sometimes irrational hope that people living in poverty sometimes possess in the following paragraph.
They would live in a small house on the edge of some town they'd never heard of, Mariam said, or in a remote village where the road was narrow and unpaved but lined with all manner of plants and shrubs. Maybe there would be a path to take, a path that led to a grass field where the children could play, or maybe a graveled road that would take them to a clear blue lake where trout swam and reeds poked through the surface. They would raise sheep and chickens, and they would make bread together and teach the children to read. They would make new lives for themselves - peaceful, solitary lives - and there the weight of all that they'd endured would lift from them, and they would be deserving of all the happiness and simple prosperity they would find.
Maybe a few people today in Burma also have similar hope of rebuilding their lives someday.
Pray for the people in Burma. Help them to recover from this tragedy. Donate now.