The world will never know how many lives could have been saved had Myanmar's repressive military government prepared its citizens for the killer cyclone. But now the junta is sentencing survivors to death by blocking the massive foreign aid that sits within reach of the people who need it. The situation is as frustrating as it is dire. The United Nations, the United States and the aid organizations need to keep the pressure on Myanmar to get the relief effort going.
This is exactly what the world feared — that a junta that doesn't care about its own people would block for the sake of its image the international recovery effort. On Friday, the ruling generals confiscated tons of aid — enough to feed 95,000 people — and continued building walls to keep foreign aid workers from the country. A mad dash of diplomacy helped break the logjam — for now. The United Nations announced it would resume aid flights today. But the loss in time and confidence among donors could make the difference in whether untold thousands make it through the coming days.
The Bush administration said Friday the Myanmar government had agreed to allow a single U.S. C-130 cargo plane to land with supplies next week. Those supplies are but a trickle of what's standing by on planes and ships. With up to 100,000 dead, and more than 1-million homeless, Myanmar desperately needs water, food, mosquito netting and shelter to provide basic health care in the coming days. With heavy rains expected next week, aid workers need to get the supplies on the ground and into the remote, devastated areas.
This humanitarian crisis will only get worse if the current deplorable living conditions mushroom into a larger series of public health catastrophes. And people inclined to donate should remember that credible, hard-working charities are doing all they can to deliver aid and comfort. Donors need to keep giving. Political pressure and a continued outpouring of financial aid and assistance are the best means of shaming the military government into doing what it would not and cannot do on its own.