VOA Burmese Blog

October 29, 2010

Cyclone Giri Hit Burma, and the Burmese Learned a Lesson from the Previous Cyclone Nargis

Filed under: Burma/ Myanmar,Feature Story,News — voaburmese @ 6:18 pm
Tags: , , ,

Cyclone Giri- AP image

-VOA News

United Nations officials say the number of people in Burma affected by Cyclone Giri appears to be higher than first thought, but that major loss of life has been avoided because of lessons learned during Cyclone Nargis.

The U.N. mission in Burma said Wednesday that 177,000 people in 71 villages are reported to have been affected by Giri, which killed at least 27 people when it struck the western state of Rakhine on Friday, October 21st. It said about 10,000 people have been affected severely.

But the agency said many lives were saved because residents were evacuated from high-risk areas and relief supplies were put in place before the storm. It said several government ministers are still on the ground directing relief efforts.

The U.N. office attributed the state of preparedness to “good lessons” learned from Cyclone Nargis, which killed about 130,000 people when it struck the Irrawaddy delta in 2008.

The government was accused at that time of being slow to deliver aid and obstructing relief workers.


1 Comment »

  1. Strategies to get into Burma, circumvent the Junta and help the victims
    By Andy Niel
    Two years ago my wife, her sister and me heard about, consulted, and immediately responded to the needs of victims of deadly Cyclone Nargis in Burma. Even though we made it to Burma and helped out a little bit, our efforts were greatly hindered by the military (Junta) government. The military regime is keen to maintain its image of ‘we have everything under control’ at the expense of its poor people. From our experiences, we learnt a few lessons and identified some strategies to circumvent government red tapes. I think the following suggestions can be helpful to independent volunteers heading out to Burma (Rakhine State) to assist victims of Giri Cyclone.

    1. Visa Application– Don’t waste your time applying for humanitarian visa, you will not be granted. Instead, apply for tourist visa, this may be easier to get because the Junta does not allow foreigners (especially Europeans and North Americans) as well as most Non Government Organizations (NGO) staff to go to such areas for fear of exposing their rot. Armed with your tourist visa, make sure you tour this gorgeous country and interact with its very kind people.
    2. Use your network of friends and family to locate Burmese people residing in North America and Europe for three good reasons;
    a. You will need them for money transfer services before and once in Burma. Other than the limited money you will carry with you, you will need to access more money for materials and logistical purposes later on. But the government controlled exchange rate is a rip off (in 2008, the UN got ripped of 2 million dollars). However, Burmese immigrants can give you ideas and even send money on your behalf at a decent rate, and through trusted means. Furthermore, these (abroad) contacts could connect you to people in Burma to withdraw cash and get it to you, at a commission. Also, it is normal for people to carry huge chunks of money in a plastic bag, or bag-pack because it is safe.
    b. You will need your Burmese contacts to give you more ideas for lodging. You must spend at lodges, foreigners are not allowed in people’s homes. Some lodges are owned by military personnel and some are keenly watched by government agents. You don’t want to be like us who ended up staying at a budget place next to the military headquarters because we didn’t tell them we were avoiding government agents.
    c. Most likely you will NOT be granted permit to enter the disaster zones. But your Burmese contacts on the ground can, and so can provide direct support to victims on your behalf. They can help rebuild, deliver supplies, and take pictures, and bring you back reports. They try to make the rest of the world believe that they have the situation under control. But you as a foreigner may unmask their shortcoming (suppression), which is not good for their PR.
    3. While in Burma prepare yourself for the role of a technical expert/assistant. Most locals don’t have grant writing skills, and courage to talk to foreigners. On behalf of the local partners, you can identify, contact, and solicit for grants and supplies from international agencies based in Yangon. Some of these tasks can be done stateside before departing.

    In summary start trusting and giving up control. Consider your Burmese contacts as assets and trust them to do your communications, handle cash transfers, and oversee procurement and logistics. Also, be prepared to calm down as you will get irritated by the Juntas’ actions, policies, and propaganda. Finally, thank you very much volunteers for helping our fellow brothers and sisters overwhelmed by these two disasters; Giri Cyclone and military dictatorship.

    Comment by Andy Niel — November 6, 2010 @ 4:12 am | Reply

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