Contextual Content

Myanmar opens doors to foreign aid workers

Countries around the world are offering to give Myanmar more than one hundred million dollars in aid. But they still need to be convinced the ruling junta will keep its promise to give international aid workers access to the devastated Irawaddy delta.
Myanmar was pummeled by Cyclone Nargis in early May. More than 80,000 died, and more than 50,000 people are still missing.

ASEAN, a regional 10 member organization, sounded hopeful that Myanmar’s promise to allow in aid supplies from around the world will be followed through. They had arrived at an agreement with Myanmar to allow in relief supplies earlier this month.

While partially opening the door to aid workers on Saturday, the junta also laid down some conditions. Only civilian vessels will be allowed in, and they must be routed through Yangon, the capital. Meanwhile US, British and French warships loaded with relief supplies have been waiting off Myanmar’s coast for more than a week.

Joe Belliveau of Médecins Sans Frontières explains that as relief workers make their way into affected areas not previously allowed, they discover that significantly more relief work needs to be done. He says that he’s not yet seen signs of reconstruction.

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Story Transcript

VOICEOVER: Countries around the world are offering to give Myanmar more than $100 million in aid, but they still need to be convinced the ruling junta will keep its promise to give international aid workers access to the devastated Irawaddy Delta. Myanmar was pummeled by Cyclone Nargis in early May. More than 80,000 died, and more than 50,000 people are still missing. ASEAN, a regional 10 member organization, sounded hopeful that Myanmar’s promise to allow in aid supplies will be followed through.

GLORIA ARROYO, ASEAN AND PHILIPPINO PRESIDENT (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): As a neighbor in ASEAN, it is our duty during the Myanmar people’s time of need, to be a part of the rescue, relief and rehabilitation of Myanmar in the days ahead. I am very glad that the government of Myanmar decided to accept the relief intended for their suffering citizens.

VOICEOVER: While partially opening the door to aid workers on Saturday, the junta also laid down some conditions. Only civilian vessels will be allowed in, and they must be routed through Yangon, the capital. Meanwhile US, British, and French warships loaded with relief supplies have been waiting off Myanmar’s coast for more than a week. Joe Belliveau of Médecins Sans Frontières explains that although relief workers are now getting into the delta area more easily, it’s not enough.

JOE BELLIVEAU, OPERATIONS MANAGER, MSF: It’s only actually since late last week that we’ve been given permission to send any ex-patriots down to the delta at all. As we’ve gotten further out to more of the villages, we’ve just discovered people who didn’t have anything—they had no plastic sheets, their houses were destroyed, they have nowhere to stay, no food, no access to medical care for their wounds, that sort of thing. The areas where the cyclone hit and where the flooding occurred are completely wiped out. There’s just nothing there anymore. The reconstruction effort is going to be massive and as far as we’ve seen, there hasn’t been any reconstruction. The relief effort overall is still falling short of what’s needed, and I think a lot of other organizations and actors need to get set up and get operational quite quickly in order for the donors to have confidence.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.