Disease spreading in Laputta & Bogalay

(Update on Burmese language news reports after Cyclone Nargis)

Fears that delays in delivering aid to cyclone survivors could result in widespread illness and a second wave of deaths are now being realised.

According to the Yoma 3 News Service (Thailand), diarrhoea is spreading among the cyclone victims in Bogalay due to a lack of adequate assistance to a region still covered with decomposing corpses over a week after the cyclone. That report says that there are around 4000 refugees still in Bogalay town and around 100 survivors are continuing to arrive from surrounding villages each day. A report from RFA, however, says that there are three sites in Bogalay each housing 8-10,000 people.

In Laputta, children have reportedly started dying from cholera due to the lack of clean drinking water. Ma Win, a resident of ward 10 in the town told Yoma 3 by phone that

“We’ve received no aid at all. At this moment there are food problems and especially water problems. When it rains we are getting rain water. Now as all the drinking water sources are destroyed, children have been getting diarrhoea and from that cholera has broken out and more than a few children have died.”

As thousands of refugees have come into Laputta town from surrounding villages, the monasteries and hospitals are stretched and some have also been put into houses.

Despite the claims of government media that officials are responding promptly, people in Laputta are getting no help, Ma Win insisted:

“There hasn’t been help from anybody yet. The clothes, food, pots and cups coming from the generals in Rangoon still hasn’t been given to anyone. The authorities are sitting on it and making a household register.”

The Irrawaddy has a report in English from Laputta, as does DVB from surrounding areas.

RFA reports that in Bogalay government officials are selling rather than freely distributing supplies. The supplies arrived in the town on the night of May 6 by army vessel but have since been held and are not being distributed freely but instead are being sold. One resident said that the supplies have been stored and even water purifying tablets are being sold to shopkeepers rather than given out. The resident also told RFA that

“A lot of tents have reached here but they didn’t give frames… If they’ll give frames then there’re a lot of available plots of land where they can be set up. But they didn’t do a thing so people have had to stay in religious halls, high schools 1and 2, which are crowded.”

DVB has a similar report in English and also one on the selling of relief supplies in Rangoon.

The head of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters group, U Myint Aye, has told Yoma 3 that its members in Bogalay are distributing rice grain, medicines and material for shelters as much as possible:

“The refugees’ suffering here is great. We have bought and distributed as much rice grain as we can. HRDP Bogalay residents have taken charge. We can’t distribute it to one (victim) by one. We’d get trampled by the crowds. We give three bags of rice to a monastery to cook, the next day, another three bags. So far we’ve distributed over 70 bags a little at a time like that.”

Myint Aye said that there is an outbreak of diseases among the refugees, including diarrhoea, blisters and rashes and that there is still no clean drinking water in the town.

DVB has a report in English that survivors in Bogalay have been forcibly taken from monasteries.

Survivors whom the government has moved from Bogalay to Bassein and Myaungmya have survived on rations donated by local residents in those towns, who have been taking up collections of money to buy more supplies. RFA said that people from Bogalay have also been relocated to Ma-ubin by vehicle.

Tragically, a ship carrying food and materials to the delta from the International Federation of the Red Cross sank on Sunday.

Actors, musicians join together to help cyclone victims

Domestic actors, musicians and movie directors are getting together to donate emergency supplies to cyclone victims in the absence of effective government assistance and the continued difficulties that international groups are having in getting into the country. Actor Kyaw Thu’s charitable organisation has been distributing supplies in parts of Rangoon, including Thanlyin and Southern Dagon New Town and has also sent some rice to Myaungmya in the delta. At Thanlyin there was a fight during distribution caused by the tense and very difficult conditions under which people are surviving. The association was planning to go to Laputta on May 12. Apart from rice it is taking fuel for running water pumps in areas where the refugees have been located. It has also been demolishing houses that were destroyed in the storm and using their pieces to cremate the dead. (Source: RFA, May 11)

Comedian Zarganar (seen here on left with Kyaw Thu giving alms to monks leading protests at Shwedagon Pagoda last September) has been organising actors and other artistes to donate and raise money and personally take supplies to affected areas. Those who have joined with him include Lwin Moe, Lu Minn and Eindra Kyaw Zin. The actors are using their money to purchase food and water and are driving it in convoys themselves to deliver to victims of the cyclone. Zarganar said that they were now prioritising clean water and water purifiers because there had been outbreaks of diarrhoea and skin diseases, as well as sheets to protect people from ongoing rainfall. They had also organised for a group of 11 doctors to travel with them and on May 12 would be going to Kunchangone, Dedaye and Twente. (Source; VOA, May 11). (See also DVB English report.)

Cyclone an excuse for soldiers to rob merchants

On May 8 soldiers under Eastern Regional Command at the Mile 105 checkpoint on the Muse highway in Shan State, northeastern Burma, stopped some 20 trucks coming back with goods from China and confiscated the contents on the pretext that they need them for the cyclone relief effort. A driver of one told Yoma 3 that

“Before they stopped 10 and 12-wheelers and gave a little money to get the Chinese goods. This time they don’t bother paying. They said they’re to give to the storm refugees and then took them.”

One of the merchants commented that the government just wanted to keep face with the public so it stole from them. (Source: Yoma 3, May 12)

A crying baby and a sigh

This item of news is not directly on the cyclone, but speaks to life in Burma today.

A woman who sighed while in a queue to vote in the constitutional referendum on Saturday, May 10 was threatened with three days’ jail and a fine. The woman, Ma Thaung Le (a.k.a. Ma Yi Myint) was waiting to vote at polling station no. 1 in Zigone town, Pegu Division around 2:30pm when she sighed out loud. The ward chairman and police accused her of disrespecting the process and detained her, throwing the polling station and surrounds into uproar. According to one person, she sighed because of the crying of her 3-year-old daughter whom she had left at home to come and vote. People begged the officials not to arrest her, as she survives from day to day by selling bean sprouts and could not afford to be away from her child. Finally, the ward chairman, U Tin Ohn, settled the matter with a payment of 10,000 Kyat (around US$8-), which was collected among the locals as Thaung Le has no money. (Source: DVB, May 11)

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5 responses to “Disease spreading in Laputta & Bogalay

  1. Aid hijacked
    By BangkokPost.com, Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, May 12

    Privy Councillor Surayud Chulanont is to fly to Burma on Sunday, the ninth day of the cyclone disaster, to try to convince the Burmese dictatorship that the world wants to help devastated people. On Saturday, the junta reached a new level of cynicism, pasting huge labels on aid packages from Thailand to claim the help was from the top generals, rather than the Thai people.

    The regime plastered names of the top generals on the aid boxes, as part of the propaganda and intimidation campaign it is running to back its referendum seeking to perpetuate the 46-year military control of the country.

    The Associated Press reported that state-run television inside Burma continuously ran images of elaborate cemonies where top generals – including the junta leader, Senior Gen Than Shwe – handed out boxes of Thai aid disguised so as to appear it came from the junta, to survivors of the tragedy.

    One box seen in the videos bore the name of Lt Gen Myint Swe, a rising star in the government hierarchy, in bold letters, overshadowing a smaller label which barely could be read:: “Aid from the Kingdom of Thailand.”

    “We have already seen regional commanders putting their names on the side of aid shipments from Asia, saying this was a gift from them and then distributing it in their region,” said Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, which campaigns for human rights and democracy in the country.

    Gen Surayud, a former prime minister, is to fly to Naypyidaw, the Burmese “jungle capital,” to do the unthinkable – convince the Burmese generals to allow the world to help the victims of a killer cyclone.

    As an illustration, Gen Surayud will present aid packages provided by the King. On Saturday, His Majesty instructed the Raja Prachanukroh Foundation to send 2,000 bags of utensils and bedding.

    The 10 tonnes of subsistence aid was to be flown to Rangoon on Sunday on a Royal Thai Air Force C-130 cargo plane, said foundation officials.

  2. Burmese blog despair in the Delta
    BBC News, 15:07 GMT, Monday, 12 May 2008 16:07 UK

    Experts have warned that the aid trickling into Burma is inadequate for the scale of the disaster.

    Burmese blogs and news sites have been documenting the devastation in the Delta region and efforts to bring aid to those worst affected.

    DELTA DESTRUCTION

    Burma’s low-lying Irrawaddy Delta region bore the brunt of Cyclone Nargis as it swept through the country. For many days there was a resounding silence from the region which found itself at the eye of the storm.

    Reporters for various Burmese news sites have now returned to their head offices with harrowing tales of life after the storm for people surrounded by death in a landscape no longer recognisable to them.

    A reporter for the Mizzima news site, based in India and run by Burmese exiles, interviewed some survivors.

    Twelve-year-old Ma Ei Lay walked for days to the nearest township after her family perished in the storm. “I waded through the corpses and came back to my village. I could not recognise my own village. Only some trees were left without leaves.”

    Her journey was through a wasteland with no food or aid. “I drank coconut milk. There was no water on the way.”

    An anonymous survivor talks about the psychological damage sustained. “Most of the people lost their family members while they were clinging to each other… Many people are traumatised and have a lost look on their face as if they are semi-unconscious.”

    The desperate situation in the delta is documented in other exile Burmese news sites such as Yoma3 which has heard of the spread of disease among the cyclone victims in Bogalay.

    A resident of the south-western township of Kyonmange who is helping the cyclone victims there gave grisly detail to the Democratic Voice of Burma about corpses being found without ears and hands – interpreted as evidence of looting.

    “Those who found the corpses probably cut off the ears and hands to take the earrings and bracelets,” he said.

    The Rule of Lords blog is posting regular and thorough translations of the most compelling stories from Burmese news sites.

    People inside Burma have also been giving their updates from the disaster zone. Burmese blogger Nyi Lynn Seck has a section of his blog devoted to daily updates from the Delta region.

    “They are seeing dead bodies,” he writes. “Nobody has cremated or buried these dead bodies.” He also carries a report of how one private donor in Bogalay was forced to give his donation to the local authorities rather than people in need.

    BURMESE DIASPORA: THINKING OF HOME

    There are those in the Burmese diaspora with relatives in the worst-affected areas who have waited for days with no news from home.

    Dr Lun Shwe says on his Burmese language blog that his wife’s family is from Bogalay – one of the worst hit areas.

    “We are very anxious and desperate. We are really worried. We are waiting for news but we know it will probably be bad news,” he says in plea entitled “Give back our Irrawaddy!”

    He focuses his anger on the failure of the government to warn the public of the advent of the storm.

    Ko Moe Thee, a well-known student leader from the 1988 uprising, writes in his US-based blog Golden Colour Revolution posts an e-mail he received from a relief mission which describes how the authorities have obstructed their efforts to distribute aid.

    “Now, all the NGOs are trying to support and go to the affected area, and but we cannot go immediately as gov don’t want to permit it,” the email says.

    “So you can think and imagine of the people in delta region. U know, this is not the politic, it’s really humanity matter,” the message continues.

    Nyi Lynn Seck’s blog grabs the attention of the Fear from Freedom blogger.

    For Fear from Freedom, the cyclone aftermath has a political message: “These are the educated youth of Myanmar with no hope for their future inside the country.” Myat Thura has also heard from his family once more and reports on the price rises affecting residents in Rangoon.

    RELIEF FOR BURMA

    A number of blogs have now emerged dedicated to tracking the crisis in Burma and galvanising others to do all they can to help.

    The Moegyo website run by a group of Burmese outside the country is documenting its efforts to track the situation in the country and to organise aid.

    It has access to accounts and pictures from the badly affected areas.

    Burma emergency is a comprehensive site with links to the latest reports about the situation in Burma, facebook groups devoted to fundraising for the cyclone and interviews with those responsible for distributing aid.

  3. Cholera and asthma cases increasing among Cyclone victims
    Mungpi, Monday, 12 May 2008 15:42, Mizzima News

    New Delhi – Cases of cholera and asthma are increasing among victims and survivors of Cyclone Nargis, said an aid worker in Rangoon who visited the Irrawaddy Delta.

    The aid worker, who request anonymity, said several cyclone victims, mostly children, are beginning to suffer from cholera after drinking contaminated water.

    “Since aid is not reaching as it should be, villagers are forced to use the water which is contaminated by dead bodies,” the aid worker said.

    The aid worker said the refugees are also beginning to suffer from asthma.

    “Though people know that the water is contaminated, they have no choice but to use it, and they start having diseases,” said the aid worker, who had just returned from Laputta town, one of the hardest-hit by the cyclone.

    He said that while a few people have been grouped in refugee camps, many people still not yet made it to refugee camps.

    A Rangoon based weekly editor who visited Kunchankone and Kawhmu townships in Rangoon division told Mizzima that he had seen several people infected by Cholera.

    “I saw 11 people who said they are now suffering from Cholera. There could be more,” said the editor. Seven were children.

    Aid agency Oxfam on Sunday warned that as many as 1.5 million cyclone victims are at great risk of disease and death if aid supplies do not reach them soon.

    A Mizzima correspondent in Rangoon, who visited Kunchankone and Kywunchaung in Rangoon division and parts of Irrawaddy division such as Deadeye town, said the potential outbreak of diseases could be avoided if aid and relief workers arrive in time.

    “These potential problems [diseases] can still be avoided,” said the correspondent.

    However, he said aid is not arriving quickly enough. He said villagers are rushing along the road to get the few items of aid brought by government officials.

  4. No Serious Outbreaks of Infectious Diseases
    By SAI SILP, Thursday, May 22, 2008, The Irrawaddy

    The Thai medical team now treating survivors of Cyclone Nargis in the Irrawaddy delta says it has encountered no serious outbreaks of infectious diseases.

    Most patients suffer from colds, diarrhea or non-life-threatening wounds, said Dr Kamnuan Ungchusak, the director of the Bureau of Epidemiology, Department of Disease Control in the Ministry of Public Health.

    “Forty percent of patients have respiratory disease because of the rain and crowded living conditions, but they do not have serious infectious diseases,” he said, according to a report by Thai News Agency.

    The Burmese government issued the Thai team two-week visas, which expire on May 29.

    So far, more than 1,300 patients from 27 temporary shelters in Myaungmya and Laputta townships have received treatment from Thai medical personnel. The Thai team, sponsored by Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, arrived in Burma on Monday.

    The team was the first foreign medical staff to enter Burma after the cyclone. Experts say many more survivors await help in remote areas where the junta will not allow foreigners to enter.

    On Thursday, the Thai government established a donation center for Nargis victims at government house in Bangkok.

    His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, the supreme patriarch of Thailand, donated 1 million baht (US $33,000), food and supplies to be transported to Burma by the Thai Air Force.

    On Tuesday, the Thai Sangha Supreme Council Committee donated 800, 000 baht ($26,000) for monks and novices in the cyclone affected area.

    On Wednesday, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, met with Burma’s Prime Minister Thein Sein to try to speed up relief efforts. Cyclone Nargis swept over the central coast on May 2-3, leaving 133,000 people dead or missing.

  5. very good to read them for knowing as to the natoin and the world. thank you very much.
    yours ….mr.aung din

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