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Page last updated at 19:01 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 20:01 UK

Aid slow to reach Burmese

By a BBC reporter in the Irrawaddy Delta

Burmese woman receives food aid in Dedaye, 130km south-west of Rangoon - 14/5/2008
Food aid is only slowly reaching the people of the Irrawaddy Delta
There is a clear difference on the roads of southern Burma this week.

Lorries delivering food can be seen heading towards the Irrawaddy Delta.

There are also military checkpoints, turning away outsiders.

Once you get past the soldiers, the picture is of an aid operation that is piecemeal and uncoordinated.

The aid is making a difference, but it is inadequate and often does not appear to reaching those who need it most.

'No aid yet'

The towns of the delta are certainly receiving help, rice is being handed out and tents distributed.

In one small town, a row of tents had been erected by the government to house the homeless. But they were not needed there, standing empty apart from two goats sheltering from the wind.

Just a short distance further south there were families desperate for help.

Children wait to receive food aid from local donors in Rangoon - 14/5/2008
Some areas have received almost no help from the government

The causeways running above the flooded paddy fields of the south are lined by families - often in makeshift shelters - huddling in the rain.

They have waded from the wreckage of their homes to sit by the side of the road.

If aid does come, no-one wants to miss out.

We saw one family - with six children - who had all been forced to swim to safety as the cyclone's winds tore down their house and the water level rose.

They had lost everything, and were doing their best to rebuild their home. But they had almost no food, and very little drinking water. They had seen no aid yet.

Amateur aid

As we spoke, a pick-up truck appeared. Help of a sort had arrived.

The vehicle belonged to a businessman from Rangoon. His company supplies agricultural equipment to the rice farmers of the area.

His workers had raised $130 (67), bought some provisions and were now handing out bottles of water and small cakes.

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It was not enough, and the cakes may not have been appropriate, but it was the only help anyone here had seen.

Then the amateur aid workers drove off, to find the next family huddled by the roadside.

Not far away, in another village there used to be 400 houses - but only a quarter still stand.

The local Buddhist monastery had taken in the worst-off families, doing their best to stay dry with only half a roof.

The head monk gives a tired smile when asked how much help they had received from the government.

"One bag," he says. "Four hundred homes, and just one bag of rice."


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