By Zetty Brake, Campaign Coordinator, Burma Campaign Australia
Until there are significant changes to AusAID’s Burma program, the effectiveness of Australia’s aid program to Burma will be questioned. AusAID’s website states:
“Australia has for many years sought to help the Burmese people through a program of humanitarian assistance targeting Burma’s poor and most vulnerable.”
In eastern Burma 13.8% of children die before their fifth birthday nearly double Burma’s national average of one in 7.1% and one in 138 women in eastern Burma die from pregnancy or child birth, a rate 3 times higher than the national average of one in 417. These health statistics indicate the poverty and vulnerability amongst communities in eastern Burma, as well as a higher proportion of need. One would assume that AusAID’s Burma program would target communities in eastern Burma.
Unfortunately AusAID’s current program does not, and in fact it fails to reach the most vulnerable and in need in Burma – internally displaced persons and other vulnerable populations located along Burma’s borders.
AusAID’s Burma program will provide almost $50 million in aid (2010-11) to Burma and to Burmese refugee communities living in neighbouring countries. However, due to restrictions on aid and aid workers in Burma imposed by the military regime this aid does not reach communities who need it the most.
Humanitarian aid can reach these communities, through an aid delivery method called cross border aid. Utilising such a delivery method, could see life-saving aid reach 2.5 million extremely vulnerable and needy people in eastern Burma, who are currently receiving no support or assistance from AusAID.
Moreover, by not providing cross border aid to Burma AusAID is undermining the effectiveness of its program.
For example, addressing infectious disease in Burma is a part of AusAID’s Burma program. Burma has a very high Malaria rate and the rate of infection amongst populations in eastern Burma is much higher than the national average. Until the malaria situation in eastern Burma is addressed, it will continue to undermine efforts to reduce infection rates in Burma, as it has done in Thailand. Thailand’s Tak province, which abuts Karen State in eastern Burma, consistently has the highest rate of Malaria in the country, with over 8,260 cases in 2009. Effective Malaria prevention and treatment programs in eastern Burma can only be delivered via cross border aid.
AusAID’s inclusion of aid to Burma’s border regions within its aid program would strengthen existing multilateral aid efforts and ensure the program targeted the most vulnerable in keeping with the Principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship.
By introducing cross border aid as a complementary aid mechanism to existing humanitarian relief efforts Australia would achieve its goal of a strategic, comprehensive and effective aid program for Burma, not to mention the huge impact it would have on the men, women and children receiving the assistance.
Image by Flickr user jamesonwu.