Having survived in the open air for over two weeks, with very little food and only rain water and coconut milk to drink, the 300 surviving inhabitants of Tumiang in the Irrawaddy delta finally got some help.
International organisations have not been able to access the most remote villages of the Irrawaddy delta
Nyi Nyi, a young travel agent from Yangon, coordinated the relief operation. He and his colleagues called on their local and international customers from places as far flung as the United States, France, Germany and Thailand, for donations before making their way to the devastated region to distribute aid.
Nyi Nyi said that people could barely believe it when they arrived: “The chief man was shaking and astonished to see us. He wondered what was going on. He said it was like a moon -- in the Buddhist religion the moon is very important and every month there is a festival. He said it was the first time he had seen help in two weeks.”
The young men and women had made their way to the delta in the early morning hours. They had travelled by road and by boat, and had to pass many checkpoints, where soldiers examined the goods and made sure there were no foreign journalists or aid workers with them.
Remote and inaccessible
Six hours later they reached their destination -- Tumiang -- a village which could not be accessed by international aid organisations. Nyi Nyi explained that they had decided on a remote village, which could not be seen by helicopters because of the trees.
When they arrived, “all the homes had been destroyed and it was unrecognisable as a village.” They piled up the goods in the monastery -- the only building of the village still standing.
People were so happy to receive the first rations, said Nyi Nyi, explaining that they came “with six packs of very good rice weighing 50 kilos each, 300 packs of biscuits, which can provide food for about two weeks.”
Medicine and cheroots
They also provided medicine and disinfectant, as well as thousands of items of clothing. Laughing, Nyi Nyi also said that they had remembered to bring cheroots to cheer the villagers, especially the old men who hadn’t smoked for two weeks. “They were so glad to have them,” he said with a smile.
According to some reports, the junta has banned people in isolated villages from receiving private help. The military has been hindering private relief efforts just as it has prevented international aid workers from conducting their work.
The generals, who don’t want people to know about the scale of the disaster, say they are running the relief operation adequately. But for many survivors, this is not enough.