The numbers we’re hearing in the wake of two global disasters in neighboring countries are staggering.
At least 43,000 are dead and 27,000 missing after Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar, also known as Burma.
More than 19,000 are dead and 10 million people have been directly affected by an earthquake in China. The government has expressed fears that the death toll could reach 50,000.
International relief efforts are under way, despite complications presented by geographic, political and other barriers. The response by the two governments whose citizens urgently need help could not be more different.
China’s leaders have reacted with speed and compassion, mobilizing a massive effort to rescue survivors and prevent the outbreak of disease.
Myanmar, by contrast, appears unable or unwilling to deal with the crisis and take care of its more than one million people at risk. The ruling junta has been blasted by relief agencies for refusing to allow most foreign experts into the hardest-hit areas and not responding adequately to what they say is a spiraling crisis. Relief workers also reported some storm survivors were being given spoiled or poor-quality food rather than nutrition-rich biscuits sent by international donors, adding to fears that the ruling military junta in the Southeast Asian country could be misappropriating assistance.
The crisis is bad enough without government making things worse. International pressure and scrutiny must come to the rescue.