Burma - Cyclone Nargis
Slowly, much too slowly, it seems to be dawning on the Burmese junta that they must accept outside help to mount an effective relief effort and to save the lives of many thousands of people. We are not going to see an international relief effort on the scale of that following the Asian tsunami but maybe things are starting to move in the right direction. A breakthrough is seen as near says a report today from Reuters.
The delays have surely already cost lives but what matters now is to move forward and take action that is as prompt and effective as possible.
Save the Children Fund says that 30,000 children were suffering from malnutrition in the Irawaddy Delta even before this disaster struck. This statistic makes it clear the urgent need to get food as well as other aid to those in peril.
Public health was in a sorry state in Burma even before the cyclone disaster, starved of funds by the government.
The French government has accused the junta of being on the verge of a crime against humanity and Gordon Brown has condemned their reponse as "inhuman". It must be frustrating for foreign governments and relief charities to have experts, suppies and equipment as well as transport but to be held back by red-tape and lack of co-operation from the Burmese authorities. Ships with much needed supplies from countries such as the USA and France are near to the coast of Burma and just need a green light from the Burmese government.
Condemnation of the Burmese government is one approach but it may be more productive to try to build bridges. A minister from the UK government has been negotiating in Rangoon and says that the Burmese government seems to accept that the offers of help are based on humanitarian concern. It looks as if an aid effort led by the United Nations and Asian countries will be accepted.
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