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Aid beginning to trickle through to Burma cyclone victims

The World Today - Monday, 12 May , 2008 13:30:00

Reporter: Brigid Glanville

ELEANOR HALL: After being left without food or water for more than a week, more of the victims of
Cyclone Nargis are now receiving some help, with Burma's military government finally easing
restrictions on the entry of foreign aid.

Today more than half a dozen flights carrying emergency supplies are expected to land in the
capital Rangoon.

And despite the sinking of one of its boats, the Red Cross says it is able to send water, food and
medical supplies straight to the areas which need it most.

Brigid Glanville has our report.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: It seems hard to believe that it's taken so long for aid to start arriving in
Burma. But finally it's beginning to trickle though to the survivors of Cyclone Nargis.

Power has been restored to many parts of the capital Rangoon, and aid is on its way to the worst
hit area, the Irrawaddy Delta.

Joe Lowry is an aid worker with the Red Cross in Rangoon.

JOE LOWRY: I'll just give you one snapshot in the area where our boat was going. Population of
350,000, almost about 80 per cent of them thought to have been badly affected and 10,000 people out
of that population of 350,000, dead on this thing. So, it's really hitting the country very, very
hard.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: The Red Cross says disease is now the biggest threat to the survivors,
particularly children.

The World Today spoke with Joe Lowry early this morning from his hotel in Rangoon.

JOE LOWRY: Well in the main city of Rangoon where I am, things are getting back to somewhat
approaching normality, and there's still a lot of damage, and a lot of trees down, a lot of
buildings with roofs off, and so on. So businesses have reopened, electricity's back in most of the
city, there's water back in a lot of the city as well.

But outside the city, even 30 kilometres outside, I was there couple of days ago, saw people living
in very, very overcrowded conditions in public buildings like schools and hospitals with no real
proper shelter, no clean water, no food it seemed, no medicine, no where to.

I mean I was sleeping on the bare ground or people had built little huts for themselves, really
tiny, little huts from bamboo and palm which are right next to large areas of stagnate water and
kids playing in the water and so on, which is, this water's been standing around for a long time,
it's presumably full of germs and there's lots of mosquitoes in the area.

So the worry now is for an outbreak of, about an outbreak of diarrhoeal diseases or mosquito-borne
diseases.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Since the referendum, is the aid starting to come in? Are you seeing outside of
Rangoon and hearing from other workers that there is aid getting to the people?

JOE LOWRY: From the get go, really, the Myanmar Red Cross has been organising aid locally. They've
been receiving aid at their headquarters, they've got a team of volunteers outside the doors day
and night, loading off, loading things like water and clothing they have been receiving locally.

Also, we had flights in last Thursday, Friday and again Saturday and yesterday and more flights
expected, I think a total of about 10 flights by the end of today. So we have had a fairly regular
build up of aid over the last few days.

Also, our head of delegation, Bridget Gardner, an Australian lady, is in the most affected area
right now with the authorisation of the Ministry of Health, and she's on a zephant (phonetic)
mission with the head of Myanmar Red Cross. So when she come back, she'll tell us a lot more about
what's going on, or what she saw.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: There has been worldwide criticism of the handling of the disaster by Burmese
authorities.

The military junta was heavily criticised for holding a referendum on a new constitution on the
weekend, as the death toll from the cyclone continues to rise.

A spokesman from the National Council of the Union of Burma.

SPOKESMAN: It is outrageous and absurd act that the regime has ever done where more then 100,000
people died and there are many more could died because of the aftermath, the affect of the cyclone.
But there are still trying to push ahead with this referendum. So, it is not acceptable.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: A number of countries including France and the United States have asked to
distribute aid to the areas that need it, but the Burmese Government has said "no".

While it won't allow foreign logistics teams in the country, many aid workers say though it's a
relief that the military government is finally starting to respond and allowing supplies to filter
through.

ELEANOR HALL: Brigid Glanville with our report.