Burma after Cyclone Nargis -- survivors and heroes
Cyclone Nargis on May 2nd inundated Burma's densely populated rice-growing Irrawaddy Delta, destroying entire towns and villages. Tens of thousands of people have been killed by the storm and at least two million survivors left homeless. This disaster has been compounded by the millitary regime's deliberate delay of international emergency assistance.
Burma is a country where relief money and water purification tablets are smuggled in, where sacks of rice for starving people must pass through checkpoints of hostile men with guns, where the compassionate impulse of fellow humans is viewed by the dictators as somehow criminal.
In a country where grassroots organizing is discouraged to say the least, local cyclone relief efforts have nonetheless sprouted up relentlessly. Supported by the few foreign aid groups previously able to operate in and around the Delta region, these local staff members, Buddhist monks, church workers, teachers and health workers have tirelessly brought whatever help they could to the people of the Delta -- makeshift clinics, emergency food distribution, crucial water purification and rainwater collection materials, shelter tarps. They have been a lifeline.
And the people of the storm-swept region, we must remember, are not just numbers -- the awful abstraction of the body count -- they are not just victims. They are monks, they are mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers, they are farmers, they are merchants, they are dancers. They are survivors. They are our heroes too.
One of the amazing aid groups with whom I am personally familiar is:
Global Health Access Program (funding indigenous emergency teams currently providing aid) http://www.ghap.org/how_to_help/cyclone/