Published on
the Sydney Morning Herald

Children Starve as Aid Is Blocked


"We haven't eaten rice for the past few days," Dowla Shwe says, sitting forlornly by the roadside in southern Burma, begging for food from every passer-by.0511 05 1

Since Cyclone Nargis struck last week, her five children have had only bananas and coconut.

"We have nothing," she says, nodding towards her starving children. "They are getting weak, and I fear they will fall sick and die."

She has heard the reports of how her leaders - military generals who run one of the most controlled and isolated nations on the planet - will not let in foreign aid workers to help distribute food.

"I am angry with the Government," Dowla Shwe says. "If they can't help, why not allow foreigners to come and help us?"

Yesterday came news the United Nations would resume aid deliveries which had been suspended after a tussle with the junta.

But across Burma's ruined Irrawaddy delta, suffering, frustration and fear continue. Countless thousands are without food or fresh water or shelter - and, increasingly, without hope.

Some children in rags beg by the road, waiting for deliveries of supplies that never come.

Others try to catch fish and crabs in muddy canals, surrounded by the bloated bodies of the dead, decomposing in the burning tropical sun. The smell is terrible.

U Pandita, a 24-year-old Buddhist monk, said: "All the villages have been wiped out. I saw at least 600 bodies. I myself lost 21 family members ... I feel so sad."

The delta is ground zero for Cyclone Nargis, which slammed ashore last Saturday, wiping out entire villages in virtually the blink of an eye.

The survivors may have first felt they were the lucky ones, escaping the toll of 65,000 who are dead or missing. But now they face a second tragedy - fighting hunger and disease.

© 2008 The Sydney Morning Herald

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