Sunday, June 01, 2008

Jemilah Mahmood: "Worse than the tsunami"

Children from an isolated Irrawaddy Delta village, which is accessible
only by boat, waiting on Friday to receive donated food.

On a road near Pyapon, in an area of Myanmar ravaged by a cyclone,
people waited on Sunday for aid from Burmese civilians.

"Arriving in Yangon, you don't really see the full extent of the destruction. Of course there are damaged buildings and uprooted trees, but it's not until you reach the delta that you see the true scale of the disaster.

"Flying over the affected area, I couldn't help but think this is worse than the 2004 Asian tsunami; so many deaths and displacement over such a large area. The flood surge was certainly much wider - up to 35km in some areas compared with 5km or 6km in the tsunami.

"But a lot of the areas I could visit in the delta, including Labutta and Mawlamyinegyun townships, were obviously not the worst.

"Although hospitals were badly affected, the hospitals I visited in both areas were up and running.

More on Myanmar disaster
Diarrhoeal risk increasing, but no outbreaks yet
Access questions dominate aid conference
First helicopters boost logistics effort
Holmes “cautious” on greater humanitarian access
Local agency staff step into the breach
Cyclone Nargis: Lessons for Operational Agencies
Loss of mangrove forests exacerbates cyclone deaths
Cyclone devastates rice market
"We are definitely used to hardship"
"Both Labutta and Mawlamyinegyun were badly hit and you could see a lot of damaged homes and displaced people in camps, but the worst affected areas were farther south.

"It's here in the rural and more isolated parts of the delta - much of which remains inaccessible - that the real challenge lies."


Weeks After Cyclone in Myanmar, Even Farmers Wait for Food

After lifetimes living off the land, poor farmers have abandoned their ruined rice paddies, setting up makeshift bamboo shelters, waiting for carloads of Burmese civilians who have taken it on themselves to feed those who lost everything to Cyclone Nargis.

Few of those who wait say they have received anything from the government, other than threats.

“They said if we don’t break our huts and disappear, they will shoot us,” one man in the village of Thee Kone said over the weekend before a police jeep approached. “But as you can see, it’s raining now. We are pleading to the police to give us one more day and we will be gone far, far from the road, as they wish.”

A red sign on a stake along one road read:

“Don’t throw food on the roads. It ruins the people’s good habits.” :The New York Times - Asia Pacific


Anonymous said...

Thumbs up to Jemilah...
I have nothing much to say.. we knew and everybody who took up geography knew that the area and also in bangladesh is prone to cyclone.. it is a natural disaster.. if you choose to live in such a place.. then you could expect what's in store.. the only difference is the magnitude..
I would like to share something that many either unaware or cover-up or choose to ignore..
have you heard of Semporna..
The name sounds perfect.. its the launching pad to Sipadan.. one of the top five diving spots in the world.. and the only oceanic island in Malaysia.
Do you know that more tha 70% of the population lives below poverty and the per capita income of these impoverish people is mere usd500 equivalent to that of Zimbabwe..
Since Sipadan is a heaven to divers.. the same goes to Semporna.. It is heaven to civil servants of certain department.. namely.. National Registration Dept.. Royal Malaysia Police.. immigration.. local municipal board, marine department..
NRIC is a privilege document to those who can afford.. it could be traded.. those without these papers( which almost 70% of the population are without) are subject to the whims and fancies of these civil servants..
Application for NRIC would take ages.. (>10 years is common).. these IC's could be hijacked and the real owners would be waiting for the fruit that wouldn't fall.. for those without papers could be arrested and release after a token is being paid.. and if they are detained at the temporary detention center.. the amount would be more.(1,500-3,000) constables could drive a mid range national car, could you imagine as the rank goes higher..
Most of these poor folks live in the impoverished area.. on stilts by the sea(celebes sea, where syabu-syabu is sold openly by the wooden walkway..
The childrens are forbidden from school.. thus loiter in town, rubbish dumps, become porters, stall helpers earn as low as RM1 a day.. enough to buy glue for sniffing and a few rounds of cards..
Most of them are traditional fishermen .. illiterate.. deprived of basic human rights and are treated worse than animals..
I would suggest jemilah make a trip to Semporna to witness man made disaster which has been happening and is still happening and would continue to happen..
Please.. for human sake.. these people are human being.. and most of them if not all are MUSLIMS..

mantra-indeeptots said...

Thanks for your concerned for Semporna. Your writings have been emailed to Mercy Malaysia.

Thats the least i can do.