The suffering and poverty of the Burmese is an increasing challenge in the light of:
a) The devastation of cyclone Nargis. When it ripped through the country in May 2008, around 140,000 people lost their lives from the storm itself and the disease and deprivation that followed. About $10 billion (US) in damage was done. The destruction was exacerbated by the government’s slow response, the regime’s refusal to allow foreign aid groups to enter affected areas with relief and aid, and corruption which saw the best of the aid siphoned off to the army.
b) A downward-spiralling economy. The currency is devaluing, food and fuel prices are rising quickly and people live from hand to mouth with little to spare – 10% are chronically malnourished. This is mostly due to government corruption and mismanagement. Such a precarious existence makes people even more vulnerable.