I’m sure you all have heard, especially if you’re making it to this blog, of the tragedy in Burma from Cyclone Nargis. As bad as Hurricane Katrina was, Nargis has already killed ten times as many people, and there are many many more unaccounted for. There are stories of entire towns, houses, people and all, being literally washed off the map. Those left in its wake face even more hardship, now having to fend off disease, find food and clean water, and start putting their lives back together.
I think what strikes me most about this tragedy is how “unavoidable” it was. There are some reports that the people were not notified well enough, but first of all, there is no clear way to contact everyone as its not like there is a TV or radio in every house. Even so, I’m sure people are quite skeptical of the state run media by now, not to mention people often don’t abide by storm warnings, as we so often see in this country. The truth is that the only thing that would have really saved lives is better infrastructure, and that does not come without a stronger and more developed economy. That path was carved 30-40 years ago. So say what you will about the regime there (and we have), but there was not much they could have done to prevent this tragedy.
What they can do, however, is address the aftermath with conviction and honesty. Their people need all the aid they can get and there are people around the world willing to give it to them. This is where their actions most offend me. So far, they are making things rather difficult because of bureaucracy. The only place to get a visa into the country is through the office in Yangon, which, as you may imagine, is not very functional at the moment. I imagine this will find an expedient resolution very soon, and there are already a number of amazing organizations already in the country doing their best to provide necessities to the people of Burma. The Network for Good has a great post about the best ways to start helping the people put their lives back together. Please do what you can to help the Burmese people get back on their feet so they can go get their democratic leaders (in 2011 … if it’s not ignored this time).