The New York Times is reporting that the United Nations has suspended relief supply to Myanmar because the military has seized the food and supplies that were delivered earlier this week.
Paul Risley, a spokesman for the United Nations World Food Program, said, “all the food aid and equipment that we managed to get in has been confiscated.” He said the World Food Program was suspending the few flights that the Myanmar authorities had so far allowed to enter the country until the matter was resolved.
Myanmar said it had turned back one relief flight because, in addition to disaster relief supplies, it carried disaster assessment experts and an unauthorized media group
As international aid organizations scramble to facilitate any aid that might possibly reach the people stranded and starving following the cyclone, the government in Myanmar will not process visa applications and turns away flights that contain aid that it says also contain unauthorized personnel.
In New York, United Nations officials all but demanded Thursday that the government open its doors.
“The situation is profoundly worrying,” said Mr. Holmes, the United Nations official in charge of the relief effort, speaking in unusually candid language for a diplomat. “They have simply not facilitated access in the way we have a right to expect.”
Mr. Holmes’s predecessor in that job, Jan Egeland, said, “children are going to die from diarrhea because of this government’s inaction.”
The military junta has said it is “grateful to the international community for its assistance — which has included 11 chartered planes loaded with aid supplies — but the best way to help was just to send in material rather than personnel.” One wonders what exactly the international aid community can expect the junta to do with that “material” in light of its inability to warn and care for its citizens.
I don’t have enough words for how angry and outraged I am. ETA: I can think of a few more super powers I’d like today.
Updated 2:00pm EST: NPR is reporting that the UN World Food Program will resume aid flights, though the first shipment of high energy biscuits are still confiscated and have not yet been released by the military junta controlling Myanmar: “[World Food Program spokesman Paul] Risley said that Myanmar’s refusal to allow international aid workers into the country was ‘unprecedented in modern humanitarian relief efforts.’” But storms are brewing – literally:
A U.N. weather agency is forecasting heavy rains next week in Myanmar.
The official death toll from Saturday’s cyclone and tidal surge stands at nearly 23,000. But officials fear it will go much higher, with the lack of safe food and water.
Like hot and humid weather following Katrina, the atmosphere compounds the problems made already untenable by government idiocy of intolerable levels. (Thanks to Lucinda Betts for the link)
ETA: Shiloh Walker is hosting a charity auction of a heaping pile of ARCs and signed books, the proceeds of which go to Save the Children. Bid early, bid often.