May 6, 2008

UK Cyclone Aid Must Be New Money

The Burma Campaign UK today welcomed an announcement by International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander that the British government would provide £5m in humanitarian assistance for cyclone victims in Burma. The announcement came four days after a devastating cyclone hit Burma, killing more than 22,000 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

“This aid is very welcome, it is desperately needed,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of the Burma Campaign UK. “There must now be increased pressure on the regime to allow aid to be delivered to those in need. The regime is still restricting international aid.”

The Irrawaddy Delta of Burma, which bore the brunt of the cyclone, is largely inhabited by farmers and fisher-people who live in bamboo huts held together with dried grass. Most people have no electricity and most roads are made from dirt and in bad condition. Delivery of aid would be extremely challenging even if the government was co-operating.

The Burma Campaign UK also called for the Department for International Development to ensure that the £5m for cyclone victims is additional aid for Burma, and not redirected from the existing aid budget. Last year the International Development Committee of the House of Commons called on DFID to quadruple aid to Burma. DFID has since agreed to double aid to Burma, but the budget is still too small compared to the needs of the country.

“We must not forget that there was already a humanitarian crisis in Eastern Burma,” said Mark Farmaner. “There are thousands of internally displaced people there who are already desperately in need of aid and are not getting it. The rice price increases also mean that Burmese refugees on the Thai Burma border face severe cuts in rations unless the UK and other governments increase funding now.”

More information contact Mark Farmaner, Director of the Burma Campaign UK, on 020 7324 4710

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