Who Study - British Lies

Back in May, Myanmar suffered the effects of Cyclone Nargis. It left thousands dead, and a couple of million in dire humanitarian need. However, if the British media were to be believed, the Myanmar "junta" was murdering their own people by actively blocking aid efforts, and there was an immediate need for a mass influx of British "aid" workers.

As is typical of today's journalists, they simply trotted out the British government press releases and public statements. For example, according to the Telegraph:

the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, led the charge, saying that Burma's ruling generals risked further escalating the death toll 'now estimated at 78,000, with a further 56,000 missing, according to the junta's own estimates' through their refusal to allow foreign aid workers into the storm-hit Irrawaddy delta area.

'This is inhuman. We have an intolerable situation created by a natural disaster,' Mr Brown said. 'It is being made into a man-made catastrophe by the negligence, the neglect and the inhuman treatment of the Burmese people by a regime that is failing to act and to allow the international community to do what it wants to do.'

Using ever more emotive language, the same article went on to say:

The regime's stalling of foreign aid efforts and its own meagre response to the crisis were in evidence when the Telegraph evaded the ban on foreign journalists to visit the delta towns of Pyapon and Kunyangon on Friday.

The towns, which once had a population of 500,000, were among the worst-hit by the cyclone, whose floods and 120mph winds turned the low-lying delta area into a slush of broken buildings, trees and corpses. Yet a fortnight after the appearance of the strange blood-coloured skyline that heralded the storm, the aid operation remains largely invisible.

It turns out this whole anti-Myanmar British government/media campaign was a lie. The latest issue of the World Health Organisation's Bulletin magazine, published yesterday, describes Myanmar's efforts as a "groundbreaking approach to disaster relief."

The Bulletin story summarises a study written by the WHO, and is subheaded "the humanitarian response to Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar on 2 and 3 May, heralds a fundamentally new approach to relief coordination."

They say:

staff from the World Health Organization (WHO) Country Office in Myanmar were already putting a new system into action with other United Nations (UN) agencies and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) that were present. First, WHO convened the agencies providing health relief "known as the 'health cluster'" to assess the situation and decide which health interventions were needed to prevent death and disease.

The 'cluster' approach (the idea that a group of relevant UN agencies and others coordinate specific areas in an emergency response) is the result of recent UN reforms.

As a result, when an aeroplane landed with medical supplies, those on the ground could make it known among the members of the health cluster what was available and allocate resources to underserved areas.

As the extent of the disaster and the health needs of the people in the stricken region became clear, the collaborative effort gathered momentum. Each week more organisations joined the cluster voluntarily, until more than 40 partners were meeting twice a week to pursue a single plan of action.

Although there were problems getting visa for aid workers, Richard Garfield from the WHO's health and nutrition tracking service, who co-ordinated the study, said:

We discovered to our surprise (because of such bad PR) that there was large-scale mobilisation by government around the country.