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Regime seeks UN agencies’ help with Giri medical aid

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burma’s military government, in a rare admission it needs outside help, has sought mobile medical teams from international agencies, which are deploying to aid victims of Cyclone Giri on the country’s west coast, according to the United Nations office in Rangoon.

giri-aidGovernment figures put the death toll at 45, with at least 10 people missing. Cholera has accounted for at least six of the fatalities.

The Category Four storm hit Burma’s western coast in Arakan state at around 5pm on Friday, October 22, with winds of at least 160 kilometres per hour. Food and water shortages, power cuts and severed phone lines have plagued thousands of homes and businesses in the wake of the tropical cyclone, Mizzima reported.

Aid workers had expressed fears the extent of the damage could worse than had been reported. Save the Children country director Andrew Kirkwood said last week: “Over the weekend [October 23 and 24] it looked like tens of thousands of people may be affected. We now estimate that 400,000 people have been affected.”

Previous reports had estimated that more than 170,000 people were affected.

After Cyclone Nargis hit the Irrawaddy Delta region and Rangoon in May 2008, the junta was widely criticised for poor warning and aid responses to the disaster. The junta also stopped aid from the west, including help from British, American and French navy ships bearing water purification systems and emergency food, shelter and clothing supplies. They also delayed aid reaching affected areas.

State-media had however provided coverage of Cyclone Giri, and the UN reported that “major loss of life has been avoided, due to early warning and an extensive evacuation of a large number of people carried out by the government and the Red Cross in advance of the cyclone reaching the shores”.

The towns of Kyaukphyu and Myebon and their surrounding areas were the worst hit by the cyclone that displaced up to 70,000 people. A Kyaukphyu resident told Mizzima last week that more than 3,000 homes in his town were damaged.

Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) Chairman Dr. Aye Maung, conducting relief operations in the cyclone-hit area, told Mizzima that three people had died from cholera in Minbya and Myebon townships as a result of the cyclone.

A monk conducting relief operations in Myebon town also told Mizzima that three people had died of cholera between Monday and Thursday last week.

A female resident of Ngapathone village in Myebon told Mizzima: “The villagers are suffering from diarrhoea, dysentery, eye infections and skin diseases.”

The Burmese government have confirmed a death toll of 45, and said as few as 10 people were missing.

Joint World Health Organisation (WHO) and Burmese Ministry of Health teams were in Myebon, reportedly the town most pummelled by the strong winds and a tidal surge of that rose to more than three metres, the UN Rangoon office said.

The WHO was sending medical supplies to hospitals in those townships, including infusions, oral rehydration salts, antibiotics and eye drops. It was distributing “inter-agency emergency health kits” from Thailand. A WHO national malaria consultant had also been sent to Myebon with state health staff, the UN said.

The UN children’s relief agency, Unicef, was also distributing the kits out of Sittwe, Arakan State’s capital, 10 of which went to Myebon and five to Minbya townships. It was also reportedly preparing stock for possible nutrition intervention and the International Organisation for Migration was currently sending health teams to the most affected areas, including mobile and fixed clinics.

The United Nations Population Fund plans to provide assistance to the hospitals damaged by the cyclone in Kyaukphyu and Myebon, along with reproductive health kits that include condoms and equipment for emergency delivery of babies.

The Burmese Ministry of Health had also sent eight teams of doctors with supplies to the area and a team from the Burmese Medical Association team had arrived in Myebon, the UN said.

The RNDP pledged last Wednesday to ask the Union Election Commission to postpone the November 7 election by a month.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 02 November 2010 14:27 )  

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