-HELLO BURMA. GOODBYE DARFUR.

SPECIAL REPORT

By Alan Simons

 

MAY 12, 2008 – “Sudan eases restrictions on aid. Increased amounts of aid have started to reach Darfur amid signs the government is easing restrictions on foreign access.

 

The World Food Programme distributed 38 tonnes of previously held-up aid, but warned much more had to get through. Aid agencies, however, estimate that 250,000 have died and warn that this figure could rise without provision of clean water and sanitation. Survivors gather in makeshift camps around the edges of the disaster zone. The UN, which has launched a $187m (£96m) appeal for aid, says survivors in the worst-affected areas urgently need food, shelter and medical aid. Aid has been flown in from Sudan’s neighbours and from China and the first US relief flight is expected to arrive on Monday.”

 

Positive signs

The UN estimates that only a quarter of survivors have received any aid so far. UK Foreign Minister David Miliband said the Sudanese military government had made the tragedy worse. “A natural disaster is turning into a humanitarian catastrophe of genuinely epic proportions in significant part because of what I would describe as the malign neglect of the regime,” he told the BBC. His comments came as fresh video footage emerged of the extent of the suffering with the corpses of children shown lined up in a makeshift morgue.

 

Of course, most of the content of this news story from the BBC is about Burma and not about Darfur. Darfur, where 2.5 million people have been forced from their homes and 250,000 have died. Where women have been raped and abducted as sex slaves. Where no major power has been willing to try to put an end to the genocide. Where two-thirds of the region’s population is dependent on the world’s largest aid operation. Where, as reported by the BBC, toddlers have been ‘burnt alive in villages as men on horseback razed their houses to the ground.’ Where humanitarian agencies have documented cases of ‘armed groups shooting, mutilating and torturing children, abducting and gang-raping girls, and recruiting and using youngsters as combatants.’

 

Today is about Burma, with the US offering an extra $13m in aid and with a US plane arriving carrying 12,700kg of supplies including mosquito nets, blankets and water.

Today is about the medical relief agencies Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and Medecins du Monde (MDM) arriving loaded with a total of 56 tonnes of aid.

Today is about China, of the 8,500 people killed by an earthquake in south-western China.

Today most of the world is happy. It can breathe a sigh of relief and smile. Today it can close its eyes to the genocide taking place in black Africa. For today doesn’t have to be all about Darfur.

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