Burma: "We have to think about the future"

Finally, someone who has seen with their own eyes tells. Two women, one man, traveling for Welthungerhilfe in the delta of the Irrawaddy. For one week they provided emergency food to the survivors and now they have returned to the city of Yangon. They took a shower, slept one night and now they have come to Welthungerhilfe's office to report. It's the first personal report since the team started distributing supplies in the Delta.

For three days we are in Yangon. We are here to report on the relief effort in the disaster area. But we sit in the city with its golden pagodas, their beautiful colonial buildings, their streets, which have long since been largely tidied up, like in a golden cage. The city of Yangon is cordoned off, foreigners are not allowed to pass the arterial roads. The internet is slow and censored. The newspapers, printed in rough grid points, provide photos of the army's operations: tents, lined up in rows. The president distributes food to starving children. Helicopters on runways. Soldiers unloading boxes of relief supplies. But they do not provide a reliable impression of the situation in the Delta.

Just as the CDs with videos from the Delta, which are traded on the street since yesterday. Souvenir traders sell them for the equivalent of three euros, while at the newsboy on the street she buys the local population for half. Helicopters on runways, men unloading. Riverside lined with scrubby trees. Water bodies. Who filmed it? When and where? Why and for whom?

And now they are here. Two women and one man. They want to report to the emergency aid team of Welthungerhilfe. We have promised not to mention their names and not to show them in the picture, nor to say where they come from and where they belong. Because the government has forbidden the local population to contact the foreign press by punishment. "We do not want to endanger the people who work for us," says Angela Schwarz, the program manager. The risk of being arrested is too great. Schleppend come the first words. The man puts a list on the table. "Here you can see where we have distributed," he says. "We've built a team and told people how such a distribution should be." And then he is silent. Looks at the paper in his hand. Sink together.

Officially, the government of Myanmar wanted to master the disaster on its own merits, for aid organizations from abroad, the use was prohibited in the affected areas, The classic disaster scenario - teams of experts travel to the affected areas as quickly as possible - so they could not take action. So what? To explore the limits to save people, Welthungerhilfe decided. Like some other organizations, they asked their local staff who was willing to travel to the Delta at short notice and, if possible, to distribute emergency rations there, as a civilian force alongside the military. Some were wanted, many answered.

When the three drove into the disaster area last Monday, they thought that they would be back by the day after. They were the vanguard, should find out what is feasible. There are currently 15 local Welthungerhilfe employees working in the Delta, they work with the National Red Cross, the World Food Program and others and are supported by a number of volunteers.

The three returnees put a card on the table, showing what they have already done: Five communities in Bogale county are supplied with rice, lentils and oil for the next two weeks. That's 30 villages, so 2,500 households, so 12,500 people. According to UNICEF, 430,000 live alone in this region. "Our goal is to reach 10,000 households in the next few weeks," says office manager Angela Schwarz in the round. Silence. And: "We have to start thinking about the future, the reconstruction, the next six months, the next two years." More silence. "We do what we can," says one woman softly.

And then it gushes out of her: Whole villages have been wiped out, the storm has broken the trees, even uprooted the posts of the houses, "there's nothing left," she says. The survivors have fled. Where they could find shelter, the refugees live crowded together. Hardly anyone wants to go back so far. "The pain is too deep," says one, "they do not dare, they cling to each other."

Particularly hard hit is the island of Kyun Thar Yar. Of the formerly 15,918 inhabitants, only 2,617 survived. Among the dead were especially many women and children."Men," says one of the returnees, "climbed on the coconut palms and clung to themselves, which saved them." People are still paralyzed. Only the villagers from nearby villages come to the county town of Bogale to organize their own help. With boats. By land, the region is not accessible. Employees of Welthungerhilfe then load relief supplies from the interim storage facility, which they have set up in a monastery of the monks. They go out with them to organize the distribution. Who gets his ration, must quit. "German thoroughness," says Angela Schwarz.

"What do you need?", Ask the staff of the office in Yangon. "Life jackets," the man says spontaneously. You dread the rides through this water landscape. It is rainy season, the storms come suddenly and violently. "Then there are huge waves," he says. Many of the boats the storm has spared are leaking. In addition: Because the banks are empty, it is also difficult for the locals to orient themselves. And: bodies are floating everywhere. Although the water has flushed many out towards the sea. But no one is moving out to recover her. "The first, second, third will change your mind," says the man, "but there are so many!"

Tomorrow morning, the three return to the Delta. With mixed feelings. But at least with good news: The government has announced that the work is no longer illegal in the future. The disaster was over, according to the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. Now comes the phase of construction. Aid organizations registered in the country may now also work in the delta. However only with her local staff. The foreigners remain in the golden cage.

Donations account of Welthungerhilfe

If you want to support the work of Welthungerhilfe in Burma, you can transfer donations to the following account: World hunger Help Keyword "emergency aid Myanmar / Burma" Account 1115Sparkasse KölnBonnBLZ: 370 501 98


Welthungerhilfe, disaster area, Cornelia Gerlach, helicopter, Myanmar, Burma, Burma, cyclone, victim, catastrophe