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Posts Tagged ‘Frog

Frogs, not chocolate: Post-cyclone survival in Burma

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16 Jul 2008 14:43:00 GMT

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Joel Charny
On May 30th, four weeks after Cyclone Nargis struck Burma, the New Light of Myanmar, one of the government’s propaganda mouthpieces, ran a particularly nasty editorial, accusing the international aid community of being stingy in response to the disaster while assuring the world that the Burmese people were tough enough to survive. “Myanmar people are capable enough of rising from such natural disasters even if they are not provided with international assistance,” the commentary stated. “Myanmar people can easily get fish for dishes by just fishing in the fields and ditches. In the early monsoon, large edible frogs are abundant. The people can survive with self-reliant efforts even if they are not given chocolate bars from [the] international community.”

The commentary, coming at a time when the government seemed to be finally accepting international access to the Irrawaddy Delta region, elicited global condemnation from political activists and human rights groups, as it underscored the cruelty of the military junta and its lack of concern for the welfare of the people. To this day, two and a half months after the cyclone, the international aid effort has fallen well short of the scope and depth of coverage required to meet the needs of the more than two million survivors directly affected by the storm. Outsiders with no experience inside Burma have stated that a “second wave of dying has begun” and made alarming predictions that “hundreds of thousands” of Burmese may die as the result of Burmese government obstruction.

As access has improved to the delta region, however, and the tri-partite aid coordination body, consisting of representatives of the United Nations, the Association of Southeast Asia Nations, and the government, completed its assessment of conditions, the conclusion of the aid agencies is that there were very few additional deaths after the cyclone’s initial fury. According to reports by The New York Times and the Associated Press, there was, in fact, no second wave of dying as the result of food shortages, epidemics, and exposure. The Burmese people in the delta showed exactly the resilience and strength to survive that the government of Burma was touting.

This in no way excuses the government for obstructing the relief effort. The resilience of the people derives from their life-long experience of government neglect and failure to tend to their basic needs. They knew that even in the aftermath of the cyclone they would probably be on their own, or reliant on neighbors, religious institutions, and other non-governmental sources of assistance.

My regret is that I didn’t have the courage to express skepticism about the alarmist predictions of a second wave of deaths as aid agencies gradually gained access to the delta within two or three weeks of the cyclone. My experience in Cambodia in the aftermath of the 1979 famine taught me that in the relatively lush environment of mainland Southeast Asia, once people are free to forage for food they will survive. Rice paddies are full of small fish, crabs, and frogs that provide protein. Fruit and edible plants grow in abundance. Air temperatures rarely go below 75 degrees, limiting deaths from exposure. Contaminated water is a menace, but in the rainy season drinking water can be collected.

I knew that no one in the Irrawaddy Delta was going to die from lack of food. The risk was that a cholera epidemic or a wave of diarrheal diseases might sweep through the weakened survivors, especially children. Thankfully, it appears that this did not occur.

International aid agencies have a long record of exaggerating their impact and underestimating the self-help capacity of local people. One of the primary lessons of the response to the 2004 tsunami was that the true “first responders,” the ones who save lives in the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe, are precisely the survivors themselves. They, and supporting organizations, including local government agencies, are the ones who make an immediate difference, well before even the fastest international agencies can mobilize. In disaster prone areas, therefore, strengthening the response capacity of communities and their institutions, whether government or non-governmental, is an essential investment to save lives in the future.

In Burma, the government and its most powerful institution, the military, did very little relief work. What helped save the day in Burma was the tremendous outpouring of individual and small group efforts by Burmese citizens. Buddhist monks, teachers, doctors, merchants — even travel agents according to a former U.S. diplomat in touch with friends inside the country —banded together to raise funds, collect materials, and provide direct assistance. While the military confiscated some of this aid, and periodically blocked access by Burmese, enough of these efforts were successful to help meet some of the immediate needs of the survivors. Coupled with their ability to live off the land as they re-gained their strength, these efforts were enough to stave off a second catastrophe.

“Frogs, not chocolate” is not going to become the motto of the international aid community, nor should it. The blocking of aid by the Burmese government in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis was unconscionable. But the phrase contains a measure of truth, and suggests that we should never underestimate people’s ability to find a way to survive in the face of catastrophe.

–Joel Charny

Visit our website to learn more about Joel’s mission to Burma.

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Article link: http://www.refugeesinternational.org/blog/2008/07/frogs-not-chocolate-post-cyclone.html

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Written by Lwin Aung Soe

July 17, 2008 at 2:49 am

Let Them Eat Frogs

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Let Them Eat Frogs

Burma’s junta is willing to let its people starve while relief waits just offshore.

Friday, May 30, 2008; Page A12

“THE SEARCH for food begins just after dawn,” the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday from a small, devastated village in Burma. “Each day, men, women and children fan out into paddies flooded by seawater, littered with corpses. Like prospectors working claims, they scoop up the muck in their bare hands and finger through it for grains of unmilled rice swept away by the cyclone. When their luck is good, they discover red chile peppers or small onions in mud reeking of the dead. Then, they can have condiments with their next meal of rotten rice and coconut meat.”

If only those villagers had read the New Light of Myanmar! The official newspaper for the military junta in charge (Myanmar being the generals’ name for the country) this week assured its readers that everything was returning to normal in Burma’s Irrawaddy Delta. And, the junta also assured its readers, hunger could not be a problem, since farmers can gather water clover or “go out with lamps at night and catch plump frogs.”

This might be funny were it not obscene. In fact, according to editor and columnist Aung Zaw of the exile magazine Irrawaddy, more than half of the 2.4 million people affected by the cyclone have yet to receive aid. Meanwhile, a U.S. naval task force consisting of the USS Essex and three other vessels has been steaming in circles offshore since Cyclone Nargis swept through Burma on May 2 and 3. According to Adm. Timothy Keating, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, the task force could deliver 250,000 pounds of relief material per day, by plane, helicopter and amphibious landing craft. “And the kids out there, the young sailors and Marines, are desperate to provide help,” Adm. Keating said Wednesday. “Some of them have experience with the tsunami at Aceh. Some of them have experience with Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh last Thanksgiving. So these guys, they know what they’re doing and they know how much help they can provide just that quick. . . . And there would be significant materiel going ashore within an hour, I’d say.”

So why are those villagers still scrounging? “As yet,” Adm. Keating explained, “we don’t have permission from Burma to conduct those operations.”

That’s right. Since the cyclone that left more than 100,000 people dead or missing, Burma’s generals have found time to conduct a phony referendum to make military rule permanent; issue a decree extending the house arrest of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi; detain many other democracy activists and ordinary civilians and monks trying to deliver aid to cyclone victims; harry and repulse foreign correspondents (the Los Angeles Times reporter quoted above had to file anonymously); and complain that foreign governments are being stingy with “reconstruction” aid. But the junta continues to prevent the kind of large-scale relief operation that the country needs, allowing in just enough private aid workers to defuse international pressure.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was right to visit Burma and press the junta to admit more aid. But he was wrong, in explaining why he didn’t say much there about Aung San Suu Kyi, to urge a “focus on people, not politics.” It is politics — the generals’ politics — that is killing uncounted numbers of children in Burma’s delta. It is the generals’ politics to rebuff emergency relief while demanding reconstruction loans that could make the junta richer. And it is the generals’ politics that is forcing villagers to strain the mud for rotten rice while tons of clean food float unused not many miles away.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/29/AR2008052903597.html

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

May 30, 2008 at 7:16 am

Posted in Editorial

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World Focus on Burma (30 May 08)

Latest news on the disaster in Myanmar (Burma)New!

Support the victims of the cyclone in Myanmar (Burma)New!

Myanmar may use forced labor in cyclone recovery: ILO

Reuters –
The ILO has been at loggerheads with the former Burma for more than a decade over what the United Nations agency calls a widespread practice of forcing …

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Carbon credits could help save Amazon, blunt warming

Canada.com, Canada –
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GoErie.com, PA –
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Junta bans more proxy sites

Mizzima.com, India –
… banned information flow from Burma through its major internet service provider, Myanmar Teleport, Bagan Net and Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications.

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UN: Myanmar forcing storm victims from camps

The Associated Press –
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The Night Is Young

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Rotary helping disaster victims with ShelterBox program

Trentonian, Canada –
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Singapore: Myanmar junta scared foreign aid workers will expose …

PR-Inside.com (Pressemitteilung), Austria –

AP SINGAPORE (AP) – Myanmar’s military rulers are afraid to let in international aid workers to help cyclone victims because it might expose their own …

Logistics hamper Myanmar relief

CNN –
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Myanmar afraid cyclone handling will show up junta-Singapore

Reuters –
The evictions come a day after official media in the former Burma lashed out at offers of foreign aid, criticising donors’ demands for access to the …

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Calgary Herald

Myanmar blasts aid donors for not giving more

The Associated Press –
But the military rulers of Myanmar, also known as Burma, are continuing to throw up obstacles to the free flow of international aid, aid and human rights groups said Friday.
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Times Now.tv

Superstition and ‘panties for peace’ in Myanmar/Burma

Dallas Morning News –
Women around the world are asked to post their panties to local Burmese embassies in a bid to strip the regime of its power and bring an end to its gross violations of human rights, especially those committed against Burma’s women.
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CBS News

US naval forces consider abandoning Myanmar relief efforts

Jane’s –
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US sharply skeptical of Myanmar constitution

AFP –
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The White House on Friday expressed frustration at the pace of aid flows into Myanmar after devastating Cyclone Nargis and said the ruling junta’s new constitution lacks credibility.
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Burma cyclone aid agencies make plea for orphans

guardian.co.uk –
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AP YANGON, Myanmar: Military-ruled Myanmar has adopted a new constitution through a referendum that critics note was held in aftermath of a severe cyclone while hundreds of thousands of victims were receiving little or no aid from the government.
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Myanmar’s cyclone response regrettable: Singapore PM

ABS CBN News –
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YANGON, May 30 (Xinhua) — Chinese medics working in Myanmar for the relief of cyclone victims donated four vehicles for medical use and other medical equipment as well as medicines to the Myanmar side Friday as the team is about to end their two-week …
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UN warns Burma it is endangering its citizens

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Bloomberg –
More than 130000 people were killed or left missing by the storm in the country formerly known as Burma, the UN says. Doctors Without Borders has 250 workers, more than a dozen of them from outside Myanmar, operating in the delta, Terasse said, …


Boston Globe

French humanitarian aid to Burma (May 29, 2008)

France Diplomatie (press release) –
The aircraft took off from the airport at Vatry with permission to land in Burma where it will arrive in the night (6:15 am local time).
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Thai News Agency MCOT

Thailand to send more aid to Burma

Bangkok Post –
Speaking after accompanying the new team of doctors to Burma, Mr Chaiya said the Burmese government and people were grateful for the kindness of the royal family and assistance from the government.
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Give aid workers in Myanmar effective access–Pope

Reuters –
The Pope made his indirect appeal in an address to the Catholic bishops of the former Burma, who are winding up a visit to the Vatican, and urged them to be strong in the face of “distress, persecution and famine”.

US senator says India, China must pressure Myanmar’s junta for …

International Herald Tribune –
AP SINGAPORE: Regional superpowers India and China should exert their influence over Myanmar’s generals to push the country toward democracy, a leading US politician said Friday.


Telegraph.co.uk

Burma cyclone: Junta tells victims to eat frogs

Telegraph.co.uk –
According to newspaper New Light of Myanmar, a government mouthpiece: “The people (of the Irrawaddy delta) can survive with self-reliant efforts even if they are not given chocolate bars from (the) international community.

Baby born on boat donated to Burma relief by businessman

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Voice of America

UN Officials Condemn Burma’s Forced Eviction of Cyclone Victims …

Voice of America –
By Luis Ramirez Burma’s military government has begun forcing cyclone victims to leave relief centers and return to their homes in the devastated Irawaddy Delta.


AFP

Myanmar lashes foreign aid, says survivors can eat frogs

AFP –
YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s ruling junta lashed out at foreign aid donors Friday, saying cyclone victims did not need supplies of “chocolate bars” and could instead survive by eating frogs and fish.

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Seattle Times

Editorial: Burma junta’s crackdown is woefully misguided

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ReliefWeb (press release), Switzerland –
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Israel Sends More Aid to Burma and China

Arutz Sheva, Israel –
by Ezra HaLevi (IsraelNN.com) Israel has dispatched a third shipment of aid to Burma (Myanmar) and another shipment to China, as well, following natural ..

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Burma: Junta Attacks Internet Freedom

Scoop.co.nz (press release), New Zealand –
According to a recent announcement by Myanmar Teleport, technical changes are being made to prevent the use of proxy servers in Burma. Myanmar Teleport …

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China, Korea sign Myanmar energy exploration deal

Reuters UK, UK –
Few Western companies will invest in the former Burma because of its poor human rights record and continued detention of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San …
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Bishop’s Emergency Appeal for Burma is making a difference

Diocese of Lichfield, UK –
… sent to the Bishop of Lichfield’s Emergency Appeal in response to the Cyclone Nargis crisis in Burma are already making a difference in Myanmar. …

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Radio Australia

Myanmar adopts new constitution

Aljazeera.net, Qatar –
Myanmar ‘s government has formally adopted a new national constitution following a heavily-criticised referendum held earlier this month amid the …
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Burma’s military says new constitution enacted Radio Australia
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Sydney Morning Herald

Myanmar: Junta Upset Over Aid Pledges

New York Times, United States –
Last week, Juan José Daboub, the managing director of the World Bank, said the bank would not extend any financial aid to Myanmar because it had not paid …
Burma: cyclone victims can survive on own Melbourne Herald Sun
Junta evicts families from emergency shelters Sydney Morning Herald
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A Lakeville Photographer Saw Makings of Myanmar Problems During …

Litchfield County Times, CT –
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