First German Aid Arrives in Burma | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 15.05.2008
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First German Aid Arrives in Burma

The first German aid consignment has arrived in Burma. The supplies are destined for the survivors of Cyclone Nargis, which left an estimated 2.5 million people destitute when it hit the country almost two weeks ago.

German Red Cross on Thursday send its first aid transport with six mobile water and sanitation modules to Burma for helping actions after the cyclone disaster.

Six mobile water and sanitation modules arrived in Burma from Germany Thursday

The arrival of the 20 tonnes of aid comes as the military governmment continues to resist international pressure to relax its restrictions on foreign aid workers coming into Burma.

The United Nations' World Food Program is charged with distributing the German consignment, which includes four water purification systems. The organization has so far delivered some 700 tonnnes of food and rice to some 100,000 people.

The New-York based Human Rights Watch warned on Thursday that countries sending aid to the country should insist on monitoring to ensure that aid reaches those most in need and stop the government diverting supplies. The group has confirmed a news report that the junta had seized high-protein biscuits supplied by the international community and distributed low-quality substitutes to survivors.

It said leaving the aid at the airport "under the control of the abusive and ill-equipped military" would not necessarily help victims of the cyclone."

EU trying the softly-softly approach

Chain of people passing along aid supplies

The first US aid flight was allowed into Burma on Monday.

The European Union's top official aid official, Louis Michel, who is currently in the main city Rangoon for taks with the country's military rulers, warned that the government's stance was increasing the risk of starvation and disease.

The government has been under fire for refusing to allow enough foreign aid specialists into the country to help co-ordinate the huge relief operation needed and for which, observers say, it lacks the capacity.

But Michel dismissed suggestions from some states that they should bring in aid without waiting for the authorities' permission. On Wednesday, the Thai prime minister was told Myanmar, as the country is officially called, could deal with the problem by itself.

"We want to convince the authorities of our good faith. We are there for humanitarian reasons," said Michel.

Pressure on government likely to grow

Army aid specialists with water supplies

The risk of contagion through dirty drinking water is growing

But as time ticks by and conditions continue to deteriorate, with monsoon rains adding to the misery and logistical problems, political pressure on the junta looks set to grow.

The government continues to appear more concerned with preserving its own power than dealing with the emergency crisis, which the Red Cross estimate could have left up the 128,000 dead. The army is reportedly forcing homeless cyclone survivors out of the nation's monastries, centers of anti-regime protests last year, and into state-run camps where it is unclear if there is sufficient food or water.

"The authorities do not have enough supplies. Monks still have to take care of these victims," a 30-year-old monk told AFP news agency. He had travelled to Rangoon from a town in the Irrawaddy Delta in search of donations.

Mind on other matters?

The military government also announced the results of a widely criticized referendum on Thursday. State media said the draft constitution, which is designed to give the military more power, had won overwhelming support.

The junta was condemned internationally for going ahead with the vote given the scale of the disaster caused by the cyclone. A vote in the cyclone-hit area, which was postponed, is still scheduled for May 24.

The authorities said they had garnered 92.4 percent of the vote in the referendum, which has also been accompanied by accusations of voter intimidation and vote-buying. It put turnout at 99 percent.

Burma has been under military rule for 46 years. The current junta has promised a general election in 2010, but given its control over both houses, prospects for real democracy remain poor.

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