Survivors of the cyclone that ploughed across the Irrawaddy Delta region of Myanmar on May 2 are receiving spoiled food from the military junta that rules the country instead of the high-quality supplies donated by foreign governments and NGOs, the Associated Press reports.
Angry government officials have complained that the junta is misappropriating some aid, replacing high-energy biscuits rushed in by the United Nations World Food Program on its first flights into the country with "tasteless, low-quality" biscuits produced by the country's Industry Ministry. While journalists have been unable to confirm the allegations, the director of CARE Australia's Myanmar program said his staff had found rotting rice being distributed in the devastated delta region.
According to the United Nations, WFP has been able to get only 20 percent of the food needed into Myanmar because of logistical challenges, in-country bottlenecks, and government-imposed restrictions. While WFP officials acknowledged frustration over the fact that aid is barely trickling into the country, they had not heard that relief supplies were disappearing into warehouses controlled by the junta. "We've had no reports whatsoever about any incidents of this kind," said Marcus Prior, a WFP spokesman in Bangkok.
Javier Solana, foreign policy chief of the European Union, told the New York Times that if the Myanmar government continues to bar large-scale shipments of aid, outside donors would look for other ways to deliver it. That may prove challenging, however, as foreign aid workers who have managed to get to the delta west of Yangon have repeatedly been forced to return to the city.
In one such instance, three relief workers affiliated with the international aid group Doctors Without Borders — a doctor, a water and sanitation expert, and an aid coordinator — were refused permission to travel or even enter hospitals to consult with local staff. "We are worried," said Hugues Robert, a spokesman for the group. "This has been happening for a few days."