No wonder Tim Costello is discouraged!
Tim Costello dejected over inability to help in Burma (SMH):
TIM COSTELLO has dealt with devastation before. He has stood among the ruins of people's homes and lives, and bodies rotting in the streets.
But in Burma, while suffering in the wake of Cyclone Nargis was all around, it was a sense of frustration at being unable to help that overwhelmed the World Vision Australia chief.
In his first interview since returning to Melbourne on Saturday, Mr Costello broke down yesterday as he detailed the infuriating hurdles he faced in a country that seemed more focused on its elections than saving the lives of its people.
After flying in to the country's south with one of the few visas granted to foreigners on May 8 he was granted an audience with a general in Rangoon until two days later.
Mr Costello said he worked hard to prove he was not a "foreign saboteur". "We told [the general] we had come to ask for a letter to give us access through road blocks, the ability to distribute aid ourselves rather than through the military and permission for one of our planes to leave Dubai. He agreed to the first two."
The letter gave World Vision unrestricted access to deliver materials such as blankets and rice. But it was not enough.
Foreign aid workers from across the world continued to remain on standby yesterday as contaminated water threatened the health of thousands who have remarkably survived to this point.
Mr Costello broke down as he described the guilt of returning home.
"It's knowing what could have been done," he said. "This is the frustration. Even though it's not in your control and it's inappropriate and neurotic, you still feel it."
After praising the Government's $25 million aid commitment to Burma, Mr Costello said he was concerned about the impact of the junta's resistance to donors.
"Australians have not given," he said. "It would be interesting to compare the figures to China after they opened up, responded fast, allowed helicopters and journalists in, the whole lot.
"There is deep, deep cynicism in the donor public in Australia. They think … it's going into the Government's pockets, they're not getting the money. In truth, not a cent of our aid is going to the military.
"Getting that message through is very difficult … But we must not give up on them. They did not choose their government."