Sunday, May 18, 2008

Myanmar After The Storm: Part 6

The official toll of dead and missing in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis has increased to more than 133,000. Nearly 78,000 people have died, according to the Myanmar government, and more than 55,000 are still unaccounted for.

Estimates of the total number of people affected by the cyclone are as high as 3.2 million, based on a computer model of the population distribution in the area. And the International Red Cross has warned repeatedly and urgently that clean water is needed to avert a public health disaster.

But we need not worry, because the Myanmar government has announced that there is no outbreak of infectious diseases in the region hit by Cyclone Nargis. And that makes it so.

The World Health Organization, however, has confirmed some cases of cholera, but it reports that the number of cases seen so far don't exceed the usual pattern for this time of year. That could change at any moment.

Fortunately, more supplies – and more aid workers – are being permitted to enter Myanmar than before. And the government has shown a bit less reluctance in recent days to allow some foreign aid workers access to the Ayeyarwaddy Delta. A deal has evolved that would have foreign aid efforts coordinated by Myanmar's neighbors and members of the ASEAN group of countries, all of whom are on better terms with the Myanmar government than are the United States, Britain and the European Union.

General Than Shwe, the head of the Myanmar government has finally stirred from his isolated capital of Naypyitaw to visit two relief camps in suburban Yangon.

The cyclone has ended, but the misery lingers on.

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