Today the first American plane with relief supplies reached Myanmar (Burma). But the question is how much help will the desperate people actually receive? According to the U.N fewer than one-third of the refugees have received any aid and the estimated death total has reached 216,000.
The problem is the military junta. Relief distribution is dreadfully slow because of restrictions imposed by the military regime. A member of the junta has announced that foreign aid workers are prohibited from entering the disaster area and they must give all their supplies to the military for distribution. Food boxes have been slapped with the names of the military, clearly a self-serving propaganda effort by a group that knows little or nothing about the distribution of disaster relief.
Two immediate dangers are food riots and epidemics. Flooded areas in the disaster zone are contaminated with human and animal waste making them “an effective breeding ground” for diseases like cholera and typhoid. Yet only two of 20 visa requests by World Vision have been processed.
As a horrified world offered help, the generals continue to be obstructive. Aid workers waited in vain for visas and the junta haggled about import duties on emergency supplied. “This,” wrote the Economist, “is criminal.”
So what can be done to help the dying and injured in Myanmar?
Should the West try to ignore the junta and fly in supplies and personnel without their permission?
Or should the West aid and abet the junta by giving them relief supplies directly for distribution even though they are likely to make a hash of it?
Or should the West withhold supplies until the junta agrees to fully cooperate>
What do you think?
Finally, do you think Canadians will give money to relief agencies such as World Vision if the junta continues to interfere and delay the relief effort?