Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Aid for Myanmar's Cyclone Victims

In an effort to rush aid to those devastated by last week's cyclone in Myanmar, it is critical to make sure that the aid actually reaches it's intended recipients.

Myanmar cyclone death toll soars past 22,000: state radiol

YANGON, Myanmar - The cyclone death toll soared above 22,000 on Tuesday and more than 41,000 others were missing as foreign countries mobilized to rush in aid after the country's deadliest storm on record, state radio reported.

Up to 1 million people may be homeless after Cyclone Nargis hit the Southeast Asian nation, also known as Burma, early Saturday. Some villages have been almost totally eradicated and vast rice-growing areas are wiped out, the World Food Program said.

Images from state television showed large trees and electricity poles sprawled across roads and roofless houses ringed by large sheets of water in the Irrawaddy River delta region, which is regarded as Myanmar's rice bowl.

"From the reports we are getting, entire villages have been flattened and the final death toll may be huge," Mac Pieczowski, who heads the International Organization for Migration office in Yangon, said in a statement.

Buddhist monks and Catholic nuns wielding knives and axes joined Yangon residents Tuesday in clearing roads of ancient, fallen trees that were once the city's pride. And soldiers were out on the streets in large numbers for the first time since the cyclone hit, helping to clear trees as massive as 15 feet in diameter.

As the Canadian Globe and Mail reported yesterday:

Emergency assistance was quickly promised by the United States, Thailand, Germany, the European Union and others. Canada will commit $2-million in aid, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said yesterday.

Details on how aid would be delivered were still to be worked out, Elisabeth Byrs, of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told The Associated Press.

A number of Burmese Buddhist temples in Canada are collecting donations for the cyclone victims. "I'm sure the death toll is much higher than the regime says, because the regime normally underestimates the toll from these kinds of disasters," said Zaw Wai Kyaw, president of the Burma Buddhist Association of Ontario and a spokesperson for the Canadian Campaign for Free Burma.

He warned that the military junta could divert some of the foreign assistance to its own members and supporters, rather than to the victims of the cyclone. "I'm really worried that very little of the official assistance will go the victims," he said in an interview.

Related articles:

Canadians step up to help cyclone-ravaged Burma

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