Friday, May 9, 2008

Update on cyclone aftermath in Myanmar/Burma

The confirmed death toll is now above 80,000. Estimates are that 40% of children in the affected area are now homeless. To make things even worse (if that is possible) the cyclone struck right at the peak of rice harvest season, making hunger a certainty for months to come.

The UN and other agencies have been having problems with delivering aid to the cyclone affected regions. The first UN relief planes were allowed to land yesterday (5 days after the storm), but the relief supplies were confiscated by the ruling military junta, and aid workers were not granted visas to administer the aid or survey the damage. No aid or personnel from the United States (or nearly any other country) are being allowed in. The UN temporarily suspended further aid flights, but today reinstated flights due to the extreme need. There is talk of the UN Security Council invoking a measure to force aid workers entry into the country (this measure was devised in the aftermath of the failed UN response to the Rwanda genocide in 1994).

For now, I would recommend continuing donations, but only to UN-affiliated organizations, like the World Food Programme, UNHCR (for refugees), and UNICEF (for children). And say a prayer. But give aid first.

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