As Burma (also known as Myanmar) faces the greatest calamity in its history, with over 130,000 people killed and two million displaced by a murderous cyclone, the United Nations says that what the country needs now is more condoms.
The Catholic News Agency reported on Thursday that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) continued transporting to Burma health packages that include, among others, condoms, contraceptive pills, and razors for cutting umbilical cords. As foreign aid workers were rejected the access to the country by the ruling military junta, the UNFPA distributed its kits freely and undisrupted. It is believed that the first transport of health packages that served some 300,000 people arrived in Burma on May 10th; one week after the disastrous cyclone buffeted the country.
In May, UNFPA has managed to ship to Burma over 72,000 condoms, but it plans to triple this number in the nearby future. The Catholic News Agency quoted one UN worker as saying: “We don’t want regular use of contraception disrupted. An emergency usually damages the health system, so people don’t have access to condoms and contraceptives.” The UNFPA explained that the regions affected by the cyclone are threatened by the outbreak of diseases and contraceptives could effectively prevent their spreading.
UNFPA says that vast access to condoms and other forms of contraception is essential to keep the HIV virus in Burma at the present low level. According to the data provided by the Central Intelligence Agency, only a little over one percent of the 48-million strong population is infected with the deadly virus, which places Burma among the healthiest nations in the region. Apart from contraception, the UNFPA also promotes – unofficially – abortion in underdeveloped countries. Although the UN agency states that it is against abortion as a method of family planning, its health kits include the abortifacient pills.
It is estimated that the cyclone has made some 2.4 million people homeless, who are in desperate need of food and medicine. Although the ruling military junta has informed on Friday that it will let all foreign aid workers in the country, Burma still teeters on the edge of humanitarian disaster. Yet, UNFPA sees nothing wrong in providing people with contraception instead of using its channels to send food and life-saving medicine. One UN adviser admitted that “Not every single woman is using contraceptives in Myanmar,” but insisted that condoms were of great importance.
Burma, renamed Myanmar by the military junta, is a former British colony located in Southeast Asia. The short period of relative democracy since the country gained independence in 1948 was followed by years of violence and military rules. In 1988 thousands of people took to the streets demanding democratic elections, but the uprising was quickly quelled by the government. Another wave of public discontent hit Burma in 2007. On May 2, 2008, a disastrous cyclone swept through the country and left around 134,000 people killed and over two million displaced.