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State, Society and Natural Disaster: Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (Burma)

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International efforts to provide relief to areas struck by natural disasters, such as tropical cyclones or earthquakes, are usually evaluated in terms of logistical, personnel and technical criteria — how to get needed supplies and services to affected populations quickly and effectively. These criteria are, of course, essential. However, the case of Cyclone Nargis, which struck the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) Delta and other parts of southern Myanmar (Burma) on 2–3 May 2008, shows that the political environment can be a significant negative factor in aid delivery. Fearful of popular unrest and foreign influence, the Myanmar government tried to limit and control the provision of relief to an estimated 2.4 million cyclone survivors. It may be concluded from this experience that governments, such as Myanmar's, with limited popular support and legitimacy are likely to prioritise state security over human security, even in cases of extreme humanitarian need.

Affiliations: 1: Meio University


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