Friday, May 6, 2011

Cyclone Nargis continues to devastate Burma

By Asia Sentinel May 06, 2011 1:05PM UTC

A benighted government refuses the barest help for its citizens, reports Asia Sentinel
Three years after the most damaging cyclone ever to make landfall in Burma, the region where it smashed ashore remains devastated, a fact that can be laid directly at the door of the dictatorship that rules the country.
“What we need is seeds and the resources to successfully restart our farming,” said Win Maung, one of the Irrawaddy Delta residents who has not been able to fully resume his normal livelihood since Cyclone Nargis struck in 2008. The Burmese government has largely declined to supply the farmers’ needs.
Destruction from Nargis was estimated by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at more than US$10 billion, which made it the most damaging cyclone ever recorded in the region, taking the lives of at least 138,000 persons. The disaster was complicated by the initial refusal of the Burmese junta that then ruled the country to allow international aid workers in to provide relief to the devastated area. It was estimated at the time that 2.5 million people were left living in poor conditions, most without shelter, enough food, drinking water or medical care.
Although the figure of 138,000 dead is used widely, it is simply that the Burmese government gave up counting at that point. It wasn’t until May 19, 16 days after the typhoon hit, that the Burmese, in a major concession after earning universal international criticism for blocking foreign aid, agreed to open its doors to medical teams from Asean countries.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates at the time that Nargis devastated 65 percent of the country’s rice paddies and, because it hit at the height of the growing season, it ruined rice already brought into the warehouses.
The junta did appeal to aid organizations to provide aid in planting the fall and late summer harvests, which were affected by continuing bad weather. Some of the aid that did manage to get into the country turned up in Burmese black markets.