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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03RANGOON71
2003-01-16 03:15:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Rangoon
Cable title:  

BAD GOVERNANCE HAMPERS UNICEF'S EFFORTS IN BURMA

Tags:   PGOV  EAID  BM  NGO 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 000071 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/BCLTV
BEIJING PASS CHENGDU

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/15/2013
TAGS: PGOV EAID BM NGO
SUBJECT: BAD GOVERNANCE HAMPERS UNICEF'S EFFORTS IN BURMA

Classified By: CDA, a.i. RON MCMULLEN FOR REASON 1.5(D)



1. (C) SUMMARY: UNICEF's $12m annual program in Burma is
striving to improve child welfare in a country where 35% of
children under the age of 5 are malnourished. It has
achieved some laudable successes, but overall prospects are
severely constrained by an inept, illegitimate, and corrupt
military regime. DCM participated in a UNICEF-organized trip
to normally restricted areas of Shan State January 9-12. End
Summary.



2. (SBU) UNICEF'S EFFORTS WELL-RECEIVED IN SHAN STATE:
UNICEF organized a familiarization visit for diplomats to
Shan State January 9-12 to coincide with National
Immunization Day. The group visited schools, rural clinics,
and administrative centers southeast of Taunggyi in townships
normally off limits to foreigners. These rugged hill tracts
are populated by non-Burman ethnic groups, particularly Shan
and Pa-O, that have bridled at rule from Rangoon. The UNICEF
group was everywhere warmly received by the local people, who
appeared genuinely grateful for UNICEF's health and education
programs.



3. (U) JAPANESE AID EVIDENT: The Japanese ambassador was
given something of a hero's welcome, as many nurses opened
nearly empty medicine cabinets in rural clinics to show
essential drugs donated by Japan in conjunction with UNICEF
programs. At one stop a grateful health worker pulled up on
a Japanese-donated motorcycle, offering to give the Japanese
ambassador a lift to the next site. At every school the
group passed out Japanese pencils to students--all donated to
UNICEF by Japan for this purpose.



4. (SBU) COMMUNITIES PITCHING IN: Villagers nearly
everywhere add their own resources to supplement or build on
UNICEF projects. Most UNICEF-assisted schools had certified
government teachers who spoke Burmese; younger students spoke
Shan or Pa-O, but little or no Burmese. Parents in most
cases hired local, non-certified teachers (fluent in the
vernacular) to augment the Ministry of Education provided
faculty. At one school the community replaced the hand pump
on a UNICEF-provided tube well with a diesel-powered pump to
supply safe water to the entire community (see below). Local
residents often assist government nurses and doctors at rural
clinics, who make about $5 and $8 per month, with food and
other in-kind support.



5. (C) BUT POOR GOVERNANCE UNDERMINES PROSPECTS: UNICEF is
perhaps the most effective of the various UN agencies
operating in Burma and has made notable progress in
eradicating polio, iodizing salt, and providing vitamin A
supplements to children. The diplomats on this trip
personally administered oral polio immunizations and vitamin
A supplements to scores of two-year olds at various UNICEF
locations. Next month the GOB Ministry of Health is going to
announce that wild polio has been eradicated in Burma.

-- However, just as an ebb tide lowers all boats, so too
does poor governance in Burma harm overall levels of child
welfare despite a few specific improvements brokered by
UNICEF.

-- At the school with the diesel-powered water pump, the
village has seen the price of diesel fuel quadruple since
they bought the pump 16 months ago. Due to soaring fuel
costs, the village can only afford to run the pump for an
inadequate ten hours per month. The SPDC's economic
mismanagement is causing inflation and other hardships for
the country's rural poor (i.e., most Burmese).

-- In one Pa-O township the (ethnic Burman) health officials
told us they could not access the southern third of the
region readily, due to an uneasy relationship with the Pa-O
National Organization, an ethnic rebel group that signed a
cease-fire with the SPDC. An edgy truce is better than
active combat, but the advent of a legitimate, representative
administration would improve access to child welfare programs
particularly in ethnic minority regions.

-- The Shan State Guest House in Taunggyi is a beautiful
colonial-era structure. Situated a thousand feet above it on
a cliff is a sprawling mansion called "Mount Pleasant." The
group of diplomats, having just spent 3 days visiting bare
local clinics staffed by dedicated nurses making $5 per
month, discovered that Mount Pleasant is a new military
guesthouse reserved for senior generals. Secretary 1 Khin
Nyunt particularly favors it, we were told. Oddly, the
guesthouse sports a large megalithic structure rather like
Stonehenge in its front yard. Such SPDC resource
allocations, i.e., building itself posh mountaintop retreats
while 35% of the country's children are malnourished,
according to UN figures, ought to give pause to international
donors when asked by Burma for concessional aid.



6. (C) COMMENT: If UNICEF and its sister UN organizations
were better funded and more flexible, they might be able to
make marginal improvements in child welfare and other aspects
of human development in this poor country. Absent a
representative and accountable government, however, their
efforts are likely to be minimized or undone by a military
regime more intent on its own well-being than on that of the
people of Burma. End Comment.
McMullen