Friday, August 1, 2008

Private donations for cyclone victims in Burma petering off

31 July 2008

Rangoon (Mizzima)- Three months after the killer cyclone lashed Burma's coastal regions, survivors said aid from private donors is slowly petering off, though a few international aid groups are still seen operating.

A university student in Rangoon, who has been actively involved in collecting donations and helping survivors, said collecting donations has become extremely difficult as donors are weary.

"Earlier, we had a lot of people coming up to donate, but now it seems that people have become tired as time passes," said the young man, who on last Sunday went to the delta and donated about 200,000 Kyat (US$ 170) worth of aid materials.

He added that unless they are able to generate more funds from donors he and his small group might have to stop their aid operations.

A boatman in Rangoon division's Kun Chan Kone township said he had noticed few private donors coming to help survivors, while only a few international non-government organizations are seen.

"As far as I have noticed, private donors have become fewer these days," said the boatman, who regularly transports aid workers from Kun Chan Kone to Dedaye Township in the Irrawaddy delta.

Another local aid group led by the famous Burmese actor Kyaw Thu is also reportedly ceasing its operation for the month of August due to severe shortage of funds.

Kyaw Thu in an interview over telephone told Mizzima, "We are halting our operations for the month of August because of shortage of funds."

The actor, who also heads the Free Funeral Service in Rangoon, said his group operated on their own donations as well as funds from other generous donors.

"Now that three months have passed, donors seem to be tired and are getting back to their usual business. So it is difficult to get funds," Kyaw Thu added.

Dr. Myint Oo, a medical doctor in Rangoon who is also actively involved in social work, said with aid groups focusing on reconstructing and rebuilding the lives of survivors, private donors think that their role in supplying emergency relief is over.

"They [private donors and volunteers] tend to leave the task of reconstruction to NGO and INGOs and seem to think that their role is over," Dr. Myint Oo told Mizzima in an earlier interview.

Impacts on Survivors

But the impact of the decline of private donations, volunteers and social workers are being borne by survivors, who after three months are still not in a position to stand on their own with out aid.

A village elder in Dedaye Township told Mizzima that they have enough stocks of rice until September, as they were given by an international aid group, Save the Children.

But he said, there is no other way of self-generation of food, as the rice that they have just completed planting will only yield by January next year.

"We don't know what to do after this stock of rice is finished," said the village elder.

The villagers in Dedaye Township are some of the lucky survivors of the cyclone as they have enough stocks of rice until September, but in other parts of the delta several villagers said they do not have enough to eat everyday, as it is difficult for aid groups to reach them.

A villager in the township of Bogale said, he and his fellow villagers have to go to Bogale town and look out for aid groups to help them as no aid groups could reach them.

"We have to come almost every week to ask for food," the villager told Mizzima over telephone.

An aid worker in Bogale town, who has been helping the villagers meet aid groups including World Vision, said, "I received many villagers from several different villages and helped them meet donors."

He said with the decline in private donations and volunteers several villages in Bogale Township remain out of reach.

Weather factor

With incessant rain since last week, a University student from Rangoon, who visited a village in Dadeye Township last Sunday, said their boat was flooded by the waves and nearly capsized.

"All relief materials that we brought got wet, but luckily we survived," she added.

The university student said the deteriorating weather conditions could also be a major factor for private donors to stop going to the delta to help survivors.

Additional reporting and writing by Mungpi

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