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Poor sanitation causes disease outbreak in Bogalay

Jun 4, 2008 (DVB), Aid workers on the ground in Irrawaddy division have reported continuing health and sanitation problems, while some cyclone victims in some remote areas are still waiting for assistance.

In Bogalay township, volunteers from the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters network have had to withdraw from Ayeyargyi village, where they had been helping storm victims, due to an outbreak of dysentery, according to HRDP members based locally.

The United Nations and health organisations have warned that there could be outbreaks of dysentery and typhoid in cyclone-hit areas due to lack of proper sanitation.

An individual aid worker who had travelled to remote areas of Bogalay, Dadaye and Laputta said the outbreak was not surprising because of the lack of access to clean water.

"I've seen people bathing and washing their mouths and faces about 20 feet away from corpses," he said.

"In this kind of situation, you won't be able to control dysentery and other contagious diseases."

He also urged aid workers and UN staff based in towns to come and help survivors in remote areas.

"There are people who want to help but they are based in towns , people don't tend to go to remote areas," the aid worker said.

"As for the authorities, they just keep on loading and unloading materials on and off military trucks at depots," he said.

"That's all we see at the moment. We see them in boats with flags flying, but they are doing nothing effective. Many villages, especially Karen villages, have not received aid."

U Myint Aye of HRDP also said that doctors from Philippines had not been allowed to visit remote areas and had been restricted to treating patients in the regional capital Pathein.

A Buddhist monk who has been helping survivors of Cyclone Nargis in Irrawaddy division stressed that help is still needed and that comforting words alone are not enough to save lives.

"The situation here is not how the Burmese government describes it. People will only be able to survive with the help of others," he said.

"You can't just send prayers; you have to send charity."

The monk's comments came after the junta declared in state-run newspapers that the disaster relief phase was over and called for patience while reconstruction work takes place.

Reporting by Aye Nai


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