Sunday, June 01, 2008

Burma Cyclone – Victims Tales

May 24th, 2008 by King Kong Janoi

Nearly three weeks after Cyclone Nargis killed more than 100,000 people, the junta’s refusal to open the country to international aid help is condemning many more thousands to malnutrition, disease and, unless something is done quickly, death.

The generals have now grudgingly agreed to allow their Asian neighbors to oversee distribution of foreign relief and granted the United Nations World Food Program permission to fly nine helicopters.

Given the horrifying size and complexity of the disaster, that’s not nearly enough.

Our correspondent King Kong Janoi reports from the affected areas in Burma.

A child’s white body floats in a river.

There are hundreds of bodies and animal corpuses decaying in waterways and fields. No body comes to bury them.

Children beg for food. The roads I travel are lined with adults, children and old people force to plead for food to survive.

They are homeless and some have nothing left other than the rags they are wearing.

When I arrived in Labutta, one the worst hit areas by the cyclone it was raining.

Crowds of victims are trying to shelter under a small plastic aid roof.

40 years old, Daw Than Htwe is one of them.

Looking up at me with tired eyes, she says they can’t sleep at night.

“It is very cold when it is raining and this plastic roof doesn’t protect us but we have no where else to go. I just wear what I have left. We humbly lay our dirty wet bed sheets on the ground and try to sleep. We have some pack noodles and a bottle of rice but it’s far from enough.”

The military government has built some plastic huts for the cyclone victims.

Around one thousands families are sheltering in the Labutta football stadium and are receiving food from the military.

But residents complain that it is for show, so the military appears to be doing something. As there are ten times as many victims receiving no aid. They are staying in broken temples, near pagodas, and schools.

They are surviving off food from local donors.

Rice is being handed out but it’s not enough to go around.

Many people are turned away. They’re forced to eat anything to survive.

The situation outside the city is worst, as it’s hard for any aid to get through.

U Maung in Kawlamu village, says there are starving.

“We don’t have no fresh drinking water. Because of decaying dead animals and bodies the water we have is very bad but we have no choice but to drink it. There is no health care. If the army says they care for the people it’s only for show.”

Ko htoo from the capital Rangoon has teamed up with friends to provide some aid.

“We are trying to do as much as we can, we don’t blame anyone who doesn’t come to help. We just feel like our people are in need so we have come to help.”

It’s this kind of private aid that is keeping many alive.

But it’s very short term and far from adequate.

Another local donor Ko Soe Myet says psychological help is also desperately needed.

“The people are all numbed. They don’t have any fresh air because dead animals and dead bodies are lying everywhere along the road. There are so many unidentified dead bodies.”

40 years old, Daw Than Htwe says if she stayed in her village she would have died.

“We come to the city to seek any help. We didn’t have anything to eat along the two day journey. We just drank coconut water in the forest. Children are the worst off.”

She says troops are doing nothing to help in here village near Labutta.

Another group that made the journey told me, they didn’t eat for five days after the cyclone.

Daw Than says most of the relief is going to a military base near her village.

“There is a military troop based in the area, some of my children I left there. I only got them a bottle of rice after paying a military troop. My children want to come here but there is nobody to bring them.”

Many children have been left orphaned by the disaster and there is nowhere for them to go.

Rangoon local resident, U Myet Tun expresses the frustration and anger people have about the authority’s response to the disaster.

“Even the authorities don’t care about victims, don’t help them, and just ignore them. Why can’t they just let other countries in so that they can help them? Please let them in they should not be stubborn and stupid again for the sack of the people.”

There are one and a half million homeless people are still waiting for help.

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