Cox replies on Burma

27 August 2009

by Ed Beavan

Voice: Lady Cox

Voice: Lady Cox

THE campaigner Baron­ess Cox has rebutted a sug­gestion that she overstated the human­itarian crisis in north-west Burma.

Two potential donors to the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), of which Lady Cox is chief executive, have been re­ported as finding no evid­ence of famine or deaths on a visit to the Chin province of Burma — even though, last October, Lady Cox told the House of Lords that starvation had killed hundreds of people there.

Lady Cox said that she was “dis­turbed” by the reported com­ments, and would be explaining her position to the Charity Commission. The two potential donors, a BBC journalist, Bernadette Sandhu, and an American doctor, Susan Rodgman, had not visited the worst-affected areas, as many villages were inac­cessible, she said.

Their comments could hinder the aid effort, she suggested; hers were based on up­dates from contacts in the region and her own visit last September. “The Chin people are Chris­tian people pre­dom­inantly in north-west Burma, and face a lot of problems: forced labour, violation of human rights. That’s well recorded.

“Also, every 50 years or so, the bamboo goes into flower. This is happening at the moment, leading to real problems and food shortages. People are dying of starvation and diseases related to malnutrition, such as women not being able to breast­feed. When I visited, I met leaders from 59 villages, and I heard stories of suffering which were heart­breaking.”

Lady Cox says that she will also send the Charity Commission tables of a food-distribution programme in the region.

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