RANGOON — More food reached Burma’s hungry cyclone victims as roads were cleared of fallen trees, but a British aid group warned that up to 1.5 million face death if they do not get clean water and sanitation soon.
”The potential for more deaths due to sickness from lack of access to clean water is a real concern, people are cold, need food,” Brian Agland told a conference call for Canadian media late Saturday.
“There may be 500 survivors from one town where there were 10,000 people so the numbers of dead are quite tragic,” he said.
“What is critical at the moment is water sources,” said Oxfam’s Ireland.
“We understand a lot of water sources are contaminated. Ponds are full of dead bodies. Something as basic as a bucket is in scarce supply. If people don’t have water that is clean and safe, that is very difficult,” she said.
“With floodwaters fouling water supplies and latrines overflowing with human waste, all the factors for an outbreak of cholera and shigella are in place,” an Oxfam statement said. Stagnant waters can breed mosquitoes, raising fears of dengue and malaria.
Another Oxfam official, Ian Woolverton, said although the aid group has warned of a possible 1.5 million deaths, that was a worst-case forecast — and one that could be prevented.
At relief camps, long lines of people waited to collect rations of rice and oil . Where there were no camps, people clustered on roadsides hoping for handouts. “Help us!” was written in chalk on the side of one home.
Debbie Stothard, head of the Southeast Asian human rights group ALTSEAN-Burma, said the ruling generals were manipulating aid and delivering it selectively, ignoring the needy. Myanmar is also known as Burma.
“Even in Rangoon area, which is reachable by the regime, people are complaining they are not getting aid. What they are getting is rotting rice,” she said, she told Associated Press Television News in Bangkok.