After Devastation of Cyclone, Resolution Asks that Roadblocks to Aid be Lifted, Evaluation of Aid Strategy
The Senate has passed a resolution introduced by Senator John Kerry and a bipartisan group of 19 Senators urging humanitarian aid to the Burmese people following the devastation of the cyclone and accompanying tidal wave. There are currently 100,000 people dead and tens of thousands missing, with disease spreading rampantly throughout the flooded country. The resolution was cosponsored by Foreign Relations Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE), Ranking Member Richard Lugar (R-IN), Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), along with Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Barack Obama (D-IL), Jim Webb (D-VA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ.), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Joe Lieberman (D-CT) Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Elizabeth Dole (R-NC).
The senators requested that the Bush Administration send the aid they have promised the troubled nation, and also sustain humanitarian aid to the Burmese people beyond the immediate crisis created by Cyclone Nargis. The resolution also asked that any restrictions placed by Burma's State Peace and Development Council on international non-governmental organizations be lifted, so that they can freely lend assistance, medical attention and funds to the victims of the disaster. Lastly, the resolution asks that the United States Agency for International Development conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the organizations capable of navigating these political roadblocks to effectively lend assistance to the Burmese people.
"At this tragic moment, the United States has a responsibility to help the Burmese people and push the junta to allow humanitarian aid to get to the people who need it the most, freely and rapidly," said Kerry. "This could be remembered as the moment when the United States and the world came to the aid of the Burmese people and made it clear that while we loathe the junta that has isolated Burma from the world and oppressed its citizens, we find common cause with the people of Burma and we will be there by their side at this difficult time."
"We're hearing reports that the death toll in Burma may reach over 100,000 - making it one of the most fatal disasters in modern history," said Biden. "The United States and the international community have a moral obligation to step up and offer immediate humanitarian assistance to the region. The Burmese government has to do its part as well, by allowing in aid workers and lifting restrictions on the flow of international assistance. Together, we must act now in order to prevent disease, starvation and a lack of resources from claiming even more lives."
"The U.S. Senate makes this emphatic humanitarian statement, expressing our sympathy for the people of Burma, and encouraging that all possible assistance is extended quickly to them," said Lugar.
"My prayers go out to the families of those killed, injured or missing in this past weekend's natural disaster in Burma," said McConnell. "It is my profound hope that the regime will permit the U.S. to help the Burmese people recover from this tragedy."
"Cyclone Nargis has left a path of death and destruction in its wake. The people of Burma are in desperate need for food, shelter, medical assistance and other humanitarian aid," Feinstein said. "It's our hope that the military regime will open the country to disaster assessment teams and international aid from the United States and other nations who stand ready to help."
"Cyclone Nargis has left a path of devastation and despair across Burma, and we must take immediate steps to help alleviate the dreadful living conditions that the survivors are facing," said Dodd. "The road to recovery will be long, and we must stand ready to aid the Burmese people as they begin to pick up the pieces. In light of this unprecedented need for humanitarian aid, I sincerely hope that the State Peace and Development Council will lift current restrictions on foreign assistance in Burma and allow the United States to provide the aid that is so desperately needed."
"The tragedy in Burma is heartbreaking," said Obama. "I support the United States' commitment to deploying disaster assistance and aid to the region, and I urge the Burmese government to take the steps necessary to ensure the international community can provide help to those who need it."
"Through tragedy, there may be some hope for the future for the citizens of Burma. After years of being isolated from the rest of the world, the United States along with the international community can use this opportunity to assist Burma and demonstrate good will towards the Burmese people," said Webb. "The time is ripe to move beyond the strategy of isolation and sanctions and toward the goal of opening up Burma. I am hopeful that the administration will move forward in that spirit and that the Government of Burma will accept the outpouring of international aid and allow international relief organizations access throughout the country."
"I have the utmost sympathy and support for the people of Burma," said Murkowski. "I want to assure them that the United States will provide assistance in this time of great need. As citizens of not only the United States, but of the whole world we must come to each other's aid in times of such terrible disasters."
"As the tragedy continues to unfold in Burma, the United States should take a firm leadership role in providing a decisive, generous humanitarian response," said Kennedy. "The Burmese Government must do its part as well and allow assistance to reach those in need."
Menendez said, "We are standing together as Americans, as citizens of the world, ready and willing to do what it takes to help the Burmese people get food, water and shelter and recover as best they can from this unimaginable tragedy. Unless the ruling military junta in Burma lets international aid workers provide assistance freely throughout that nation, the mind-boggling death tolls will rise and the extreme suffering will continue. Now is not a time to consolidate power, it is a time to accept the world's cooperation and compassion."
"The devastation caused by the cyclone in Burma is tragic and overwhelming but Americans stand ready to help the people of Burma in any way we can," Feingold said. "The Burmese government must lift its restrictions and allow the international community to help prevent the further loss of life."
"This bipartisan resolution sends an unmistakable message to the Burmese people that the United States stands ready to help them in the wake of this terrible natural disaster. Rather than compounding the suffering of the Burmese people, it is now critical that the military junta put aside its paranoia, lift restrictions on the delivery of aid, and allow its people to receive the humanitarian relief they so desperately need," said Lieberman.
"Devastating humanitarian disasters like these do not heed borders, boundaries or political circumstances. They affect only the innocent, and we all need to work towards the common goal of easing their plight. I urge the Burmese Government to accept our offer of immediate humanitarian assistance," Hagel said.
"We in Louisiana understand the wrath of a catastrophic natural disaster," Landrieu said. "Countries all over the world came to our aid in 2005, and we now have the moral responsibility to get aid to Burma as quickly and efficiently as we can to help the suffering survivors. The military junta must back down and let the international community bring critical resources to the Burmese people."
"From my time with the American Red Cross, I know first-hand how important the humanitarian response is to those who are suffering. There is much to be done in the wake of Cyclone Nargis and time is of the essence. Aid to the people must not be hindered, and I urge the military junta to let the United States help," said Dole.