UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Thailand ahead of a visit to Myanmar. During his two-day visit to cyclone-hit Myanmar, Ban is expected to meet with junta leaders and press them to speed up their efforts to help cyclone victims. Over 130,000 people are reported dead or missing in Myanmar and 2.5 million more are believed to be in urgent need of food, shelter and medicine.
Survivor of Cyclone Nargis tries to repair his house
As one leaves the centre of Yangon, where the cleaning-up operation is already making headway, the impact of the devastating cyclone becomes increasingly obvious. The roads have been cleared out of necessity, but in many places there is only rubble to be seen.
Rubble instead of the bamboo huts, in which many of Myanmar’s inhabitants still live, or lived until the cyclone hit. After an hour’s journey, the first camps appear. Hundreds of survivors have set up camp in temporary structures made from bamboo and tarpaulin. This emergency accommodation offers protection -- more or less -- from the torrential monsoon downpours, which have been incessant for days.
The survivors are desperately waiting for help. They can only rely on help from private individuals and local business people. As a car approaches with relief supplies, a huge crowd gathers.
Dependent on private aid
A semi-clad man introduces steps forward and presents himself as the camp spokesman. He speaks in broken English, saying that many private individuals have given “food or clothes, such as old shirts and jeans.”
The man tells the crowd that he possesses only the longhi, the traditional tube-skirt, he is wearing. Like the others, he says, he lost all his belongings in the storm. He explains that things would be much worse for the thousand people in the camp if private individuals were not offering help.
He becomes angry and says he expects nothing from the government which “only once gave rice to each family. Two kilos of rice per family. Not enough. So we live from day to day.”
No water, food or mosquito nets
There is a lack of everything, of drinking water and food, of mosquito nets to protect people from the insects and leeches that have gathered in the flooded area. The spokesman adds that people need clothes and blankets and also calls for financial support.”
“Honestly, we need money,” he says, “because we don’t want to stay here. If we get money we can go home, repair our houses and go to back to work.”
Most of the families in the camp are from the area. They don’t want to leave because it’s their home. But on Tuesday, the district’s military authorities gave the order that the camp should be cleared immediately.
Most have already gathered what is left of their possessions and are roaming around, looking for a safe place. The military hasn’t told them where they supposed to go.
Many think that they are being punished for having accepted aid. “Recently, an international NGO came and brought us relief supplies,” explains one woman.
”The organisation published this on their website and that’s how the military found out about us. After that they gave us the order to disappear immediately.”
People are afraid of the military in Myanmar, too afraid. This is why they are complying with the order without visible resistance, despite the apparent hopelessness of their situation.
They don’t know how they will get help in the coming days. But they still hope that their sympathetic compatriots will find their new location and will look after them. So far, private help is still not banned in Myanmar.