Czech government, aid groups join Burma relief effort

Myanmar family members, who survived last week's destructive cyclone Nargis, stay in a temporary shelter at a school in the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar, photo: CTK

Time is running out for hundreds of thousands of people stranded without food, drinking water and medical supplies on Burma’s Irrawaddy Delta, in the wake of the devastating typhoon that hit the region nine days ago. A number of Czech humanitarian aid organisations have joined the relief effort – raising money and trying to assess the priorities for aid.

Myanmar family members, who survived last week's destructive cyclone Nargis, stay in a temporary shelter at a school in the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar, photo: CTK
Aid has begun trickling into the Irrawaddy Delta, but with it news that up to one and a million people could die if more help does not arrive soon. The Czech government has already earmarked five million crowns (approximately 310,000 U.S. dollars) for the relief effort, while Czech humanitarian aid organisations the Czech Red Cross, ADRA and People in Need have all launched appeals.

The money will go towards food, drinking water, shelter and medical supplies, but part of the problem is the Burmese authorities’ refusal to let foreign aid workers in to deliver it. Earlier we spoke to a People in Need co-ordinator who’s currently on the Thai-Burmese border. He asked not to be named to avoid deportation by the Burmese authorities.

Photo: CTK
“The information I’m getting from the field, from the delta, is worse than any expectations. There are thousands and thousands of people in makeshift camps, in some locations I’m being told that the Burmese army is forcibly moving people out because they are afraid of large numbers of people staying together. Of course the lack of food, lack of medical care and lack of water is a major problem, and hand in hand with the lack of water is the problem of people drinking contaminated water. There are reportedly thousands of dead bodies – both human bodies and carcasses of cattle – floating in the water, in very close proximity to the Internally Displaced Persons camps.”

In this photo captured from video and released by the state run television station MRTV-3, an unidentified military official passes out food aid at a relief camp in Myanmar. Myanmar's military regime distributed international aid Saturday but plastered the boxes with the names of top generals in an apparent effort to turn the relief effort for last week's devastating cyclone into a propaganda exercise, photo: CTK
Given the Burmese junta’s refusal to allow most foreign aid workers to enter the country, what can People in Need realistically hope to achieve in Burma?

“We are hoping to do as much as possible, even though it’s going to be just a drop in the ocean. We are planning to do food and non-food item distribution, and we’re preparing a big shipment of water purification tablets that we want to get to the people and we are bringing our organisational and logistical capacity. But our focus definitely at this stage will be on food, some blankets and clothing, and water purification tablets. This is what’s most needed now.”

You can find more details about the Czech appeals here:

http://peopleinneed.cz/index2en.php?sid=402&idArt=787

http://www.cervenykriz.eu/cz.php

http://www.adra.cz/adra/cz/