BREEN HIGHLIGHTS CRISIS IN BURMA

May 14th, 2008 - Pat Breen

I congratulate the Minister on his appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs.  It is obvious the crisis in Burma is escalating by the minute.  Today we hear the Burmese authorities have isolated the cyclone disaster zone from the rest of the world.  They have expelled foreign aid workers and put in place checkpoints along the roads of the Irrawaddy Delta.

 

When cyclone Nargis, which was packing 190 km per hour, hit Burma it was a catastrophic blow for a country already the poorest nation in South East Asia.  This disaster is worse than the 2005 tsunami and the full extent of it is hard to quantify.  The military junta Government has admitted that the death toll has now reached 34,723, with a further 41,000 people missing.  The Red Cross has reported today that the death toll has reached 128,000 with the UN reporting that 2 million people have been seriously affected.

 

 The aid effort is being hampered by the failure of the Burmese Government to allow the international community to respond.

  Only a trickle of international aid is reaching the 2 million people made homeless and only 35 flights have been allowed to land in Rangoon, one tenth of what is required.  The logistics of getting aid to those most in need is not helped by the lack of experienced aid relief workers on the ground and is compounded by the country’s