Sunday, May 11, 2008

Update from VIA Programs

I received the following email from VIA Programs, which has an ongoing presence in Myanmar:

Hi Richard,

I want to share with you a note from one of our former volunteers who is still in Myanmar. She sent this two days ago. Perhaps some of the information is useful. See below.

The situation in the delta and coastal regions becomes increasingly dire everyday. The next week is crucial as people struggle against dehydration, starvation and disease. Internal migrants have clustered in neighboring towns and villages both in search of water and to escape the stench of dead bodies. They have the clothes on their backs but little else. There are nearly no sanitation facilities to clean wounds from the storm's damage and an overwhelming lack of medical supplies. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Ayeyarwaddy Division alone, 26 makeshift relief camps have been set up to accommodate over 100,000 refugees. The number of people homeless and vulnerable are estimated to be between 2 to 4 million. The need for immediate outside assistance is staggering. See their website http://www.who.int/hac/crises/mmr/en/index.html for more information.

In contrast, the situation in central Yangon has improved in the six days since Cyclone Nargis. Internet access and phone lines have returned for several businesses, hotels and households. The city electricity grid is working for parts of downtown and north of the city. Fuel prices seem to be stabilizing. Though on Monday the black market price jumped from $2.50 to $8.50 per gallon, on Thursday it dropped to $7.70 per gallon. Food costs, however, remain high. An egg that used to cost $0.10 now costs $0.43, and rice prices have at least doubled. Central Yangon, however, is far better off than the outskirts of the city (e.g. Dala or Hlaing Thayar) which still need much assistance.

Many people have asked me how to help. You can

  • Give to a local non-governmental organization. I strongly recommend Metta Development Foundation, www.metta-myanmmar.org. In 2004, Metta was part of the tsunami relief efforts in southern Myanmar and have maintained a presence there that now is being utilized. The organization has over 450 committed staff members and nearly 11 years experience in the field. Their project workers in the cyclone-affected areas were out helping the day after the storm hit and have impacted about 2,100 lives in the past six days. Coordinating with UNWFP, UNICEF, UNDP, ADRA and PACT, Metta is currently distributing food, water, medical supplies and living essentials to the refugee camps in Ayeyarwaddy Division. They are dedicating 100% of funds given to the cyclone victims towards getting to and assisting the affected people (administration and overhead costs will be absorbed by the organization). Please email one of Metta's founders, Seng Raw, at sraw@metta.com.mm for details on how to transfer funds into a Singapore account which is accessible to them the day after the deposit. I have to move to Vietnam in two weeks for a work commitment I made prior to the cyclone but while here will help Metta to email updates to all donors on what is being done daily (which will continue after I leave).

  • Pledge money through me. I have funds in country now that I am taking out to give to individuals and businesses going into indigent neighborhoods on the outskirts of Yangon. These people need the financial assistance NOW that can buy them drinking water and food. If you email me what you'd like to contribute, I can give in your name. Every dollar counts. For the price of one night's dinner out, you can save lives.

  • Give to an international organization. There are many good organizations working in Myanmar and here are some I believe have the best on-the-ground resources and experience in emergency work. Remember to specify that you want the funds to go to the Myanmar cyclone relief efforts when you give.
    1. Artsen Zonder Grenzen or Medicins Sans Frontieres—Doctors without Borders Holland or Switzerland, respectively. They have many health and food programs within Myanmar already.
    2. Save the Children Myanmar (U.S.)
    3. Care International Myanmar (U.K.)

2 comments:

Lexi said...

Thanks for writing this.

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