On a day set aside to celebrate human rights, the United States was also mindful of human needs, particularly those of the people of Burma still suffering in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis.
First Lady Laura Bush, in a speech marking International Human Rights Day December 10th, said thousands of storm victims are still in need of basic services, clean water, and adequate shelter months after the May cyclone devastated the Irrawaddy Delta region, where much of Burma’s food is grown. Their suffering was made worse by slow and ineffective relief efforts by a Burmese government concerned more with maintaining its tight control on the country than getting help to those who needed it.
The government severely restricted access of aid workers and foreign assistance to the affected areas in the aftermath of the cyclone disaster. The U.S. has contributed over $68 million toward the effort, and last week Mrs. Bush announced another $5 million would be forthcoming for devastated communities. The money will support efforts of nongovernmental organizations to ensure access to clean water, shelter, health services and other needs in the affected areas.
Mrs. Bush has been a strong and vocal supporter of human rights in Burma, and has been outspoken in her criticism of the country’s military leaders and their abuses of the people there. “I have visited 75 countries during my husband’s presidency, but Burma and Afghanistan are 2 that are of special interest to me,” she said. She added that she will continue her efforts to promote human rights even after President Bush leaves office next month.