Home
 
Choose Your City
Change City

Foreign donors open their wallets despite problems with Myanmar junta

BANGKOK, Thailand - Myanmar's refusal to let foreign aid workers into the country has not stopped donors around the world, both large and small, from trying to help.


BANGKOK, Thailand - Myanmar's refusal to let foreign aid workers into the country has not stopped donors around the world, both large and small, from trying to help.

Besides the tens of millions of dollars in aid pledged by governments, help is also being offered by smaller groups and companies.

Among them a British company that is lending a luxury cruise liner to a charity to transport relief material to waiting victims. Then there is the donation of 25,000 shoes by a Tennessee-based international charity called Soles4Souls.

But to date, little of the aid is getting through to the estimated one million or more people left homeless by last Saturday's devastating cyclone.

Myanmar's military government has refused to allow U.S. relief planes to fly in. It also refuses to give visas to UN experts who want to assess the damage and manage the logistics of the aid delivery.

On Friday, the UN suspended aid shipments after material already on the ground was seized by the military government in an apparent turf battle over who would distribute it.

As of Thursday, the UN had recorded donations to Myanmar relief totalling $25 million from 28 countries, the European Union and charities. An additional $25 million has been pledged by donors.

Ottawa has pledged up to $2 million in urgent relief and has also offered the services of Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team, also known as DART.

The donation total jumped Friday when the Gates Foundation's pledged $3 million, while Japan promised to donate $10 million through international organizations such as the United Nations Children's Fund, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Program.

The Gates Foundation donation is aimed at providing emergency relief in Myanmar as well as software to help reunite family members separated in the cyclone, billionaire Bill Gates told The Associated Press on Friday.

The funds were transferred to the aid agencies Mercy Corps, Worldvision and Care "so they can go in there and help as quickly as possible," he said.

Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, a British-owned concern that operates river cruises on the Irrawaddy river in Myanmar, said it was handing over one of its luxury liners to British charity Merlin.

"I think we all feel that this is a country that has touched us in some way," said Paul Strachan, owner of the ship. "Now we can repay the (Myanmar people) for all the warm hospitality and enriching experiences we have in the past enjoyed there."

The company said the large dining room of Pandaw IV will be converted to a clinic and existing cabins used to accommodate the relief team. A number of Myanmar doctors have volunteered to help out on the ship.

The vessel will carry supplies from the riverside town of Henzada, which is also close to an airport that can receive airlifted supplies, Strachan said.

Another vessel, Pandaw II, is currently in Mandalay undergoing engine repairs and "as soon as we can move her she will relocate down to the delta," he said.

 
 
Consider AlsoFurther Articles