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July 26, 2007

Burma: The weakest link

Via The Independent, a report by a British MP on the disastrous political situation in Burma, with ominous implications for a potential pandemic: Burma: A plight we can ignore no longer. Excerpt:

Burma suffers a political, human rights and humanitarian situation as grim as any in the world today. The country is run by an utterly illegitimate government that spends 50 per cent of its budget on the military and less than a $1 (50p) per head on the health and education of its own citizens.

The thugs and impostors who rule the roost practise some of the most egregious human rights abuses known to mankind. Rape as a weapon of war, extra-judicial killings, water torture, mass displacement, compulsory relocation, forced labour, incarceration of political prisoners, religious and ethnic persecution, and the daily destruction of rural villages are all part of the story of savagery that has disfigured Burma.

People lack access to food, water, sanitation and the most basic health and education provision. Twice over the past three years, I have met just a handful of the 500,000 internally displaced people in eastern Burma and the 100,000 living in refugee camps in Thailand, victims of the wanton savagery of the Burmese Army.

Harrowing accounts of children dying from malnutrition, women perishing in childbirth and people succumbing to HIV, malaria and tuberculosis will remain indelibly imprinted upon my mind if I live to be 100. Most shocking of all was the experience of meeting children who told me they had seen their parents shot dead and parents who were forced to watch their children's summary execution.

Infectious diseases are approaching epidemic levels and 71 per cent of the population are at risk of malaria. A 2006 estimate of the child mortality rate in eastern Burma was 221 per 1000, compared to 205 in the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo]. Health spending is the lowest in the world (0.5 per cent of GDP) and 60 per cent of households have no education at all.

And the latest outbreak of H5N1 in India has been close to the Burmese border. Burma has reported some outbreaks of B2B H5N1, but if people were also dying of avian flu, who would notice? And if they noticed, how would they get the word out if the generals wanted it kept secret?

Posted by dymaxion at July 26, 2007 10:48 PM

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