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March 8th, 2010
04:37 PM ET

American missionary held in Haiti released

Charisa Coulter, seen here after a court hearing in Haiti last month, was among 10 accused of kidnapping 33 children.

Charisa Coulter, seen here after a court hearing in Haiti last month, was among 10 accused of kidnapping 33 children.

CNN

Charisa Coulter, one of two American missionaries detained for more than a month in Haiti on suspicion of kidnapping 33 children after January 12's devastating earthquake, was released Monday.

She walked out of judicial police headquarters and headed to the nearby airport Monday afternoon.

Attorneys Chillier Roi and Ricardo Chachoute, who are representing Coulter and the American who still is being detained, Laura Silsby, earlier told CNN that the judge had OK'd Coulter's release.

Keep reading...


Filed under: Aid workers • Haiti • Haiti Earthquake
February 11th, 2010
04:50 PM ET

Haiti's orphans: Why they remain in limbo

Young children are seen at an orphanage near Port-au-Prince, following the earthquake that rocked Haiti.

Young children are seen at an orphanage near Port-au-Prince, following the earthquake that rocked Haiti.

Jessica Ravitz
CNN

There's nothing like images of infants and children in distress to make outsiders yearn to help, which is why the unfolding story of Haiti's orphans - the most helpless of earthquake victims - has kept people riveted.

But what can be done and what should be the focus of attention and efforts remains a mystery to many Americans, who are flooding the phone lines of organizations, seeking to adopt these children - immediately.

The offer to open arms, hearts and homes is no doubt well-intentioned, but several leading aid organizations recently said new adoptions should stop and not be rushed. They want to protect children wrongly identified as orphans from being moved out of the country or falling victim to child traffickers.

Keep reading...


Filed under: Aid workers • Haiti • Haiti Earthquake
June 2nd, 2008
05:12 PM ET

Cyclone Nargis: Facts, Figures, Feelings

A road construction crew in Myanmar adds new surface to a highway north of Yangoon.

A road construction crew in Myanmar adds new surface to a highway north of Yangoon.

Naida Pasion
Director Of Programs
Save the Children

It’s been 24 days since Cyclone Nargis wrought havoc across the Irrawaddy Delta and Yangon in Myanmar. Since the day we mounted our response to the cyclone, we have kept track of our progress, expressed in numbers of people reached, the townships and villages we covered, and the aid we provided.

Each day, as we consolidate reports from our various relief teams providing assistance in the Irrawaddy and Yangon, the question always at the forefront is: How many people have we reached? Every time I look at the figure at the bottom of our report that notes “population covered” I always feel triumphant. It’s like winning an election, consistently increasing our lead against hunger, disease and homelessness as we go deeper into unreached areas in the Irrawaddy Delta as well as in Yangon.

Today, we have reached a milestone: We passed the 200,000 mark in our coverage. We have reached 209,000 men, women and children — 20 times the number on the first day, 20% of the estimated 1 million people helped by local and international NGOs. We have delivered 628,000 kilograms of rice, 67,000 packets of oral rehydration solution, 136,000 yards of tarpaulin, among other items, across 17 townships in Yangon and Irrawaddy Delta. And this is just a partial report from the field.
FULL POST


Filed under: Aid to Myanmar • Aid workers • Cyclone • Myanmar • Severe Weather
May 23rd, 2008
10:21 AM ET

A good day in Yangon, Myanmar... finally help has arrived

People displaced by Cyclone Nargis by their tents in the Kyondah village, Myanmar

People displaced by Cyclone Nargis by their tents in the Kyondah village, Myanmar

Editor's note: Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Scott McGill works for the organization and is currently helping with aid for the victims of Myanmar. He shares his experiences here:

Scott McGill
SavetheChildren.org
Asia Regional HIV/AIDS Adviser

It was a very good day for two major reasons here in Yangon. A good day, despite it being nearly three weeks since Cyclone Nargis changed life forever for so many in this corner of Myanmar and despite the deadly secondary consequences accruing for over 2 million people as a second disaster begins to reveal itself.

The first reason is that finally help has arrived. I am not referring to the intermittent air shipments arriving on the single runway at Yangon’s Mingladon Airport over the past few days, bringing the most basic commodities for those struggling to survive in rapidly deteriorating conditions in the Irrawaddy Delta region. Although, of course, the food, tarpaulin, medical supplies, construction materials, water purifiers and, equally important, clothing arriving are almost literally manna from heaven.

FULL POST


Filed under: Aid to Myanmar • Aid workers • Cyclone • Myanmar • Severe Weather
May 21st, 2008
10:37 AM ET

Battling 'Compassion Fatigue'

A homeless Burmese boy drinks clean water at a monastery for a temporary shelter on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar.

A homeless Burmese boy drinks clean water at a monastery for a temporary shelter on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar.

Editor’s note: World Vision is a Christian-based humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide. Laura Cusumano Blank works for the organization. She shares her experiences with us:

Laura Cusumano Blank
World Vision emergency communications officer
www.worldvision.org

Two weeks ago, Myanmar was the lead story in every broadcast, the cover story of every newspaper.

But that's yesterday's news.

Since Cyclone Nargis hit the coast of this tiny country in Southeast Asia, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck China and violent attacks have spread throughout South Africa. And that's just this week's headlines.

I'll be honest. There was a day earlier this week when I couldn't take another news report about Myanmar. I couldn't tell one more story about a child becoming an orphan. I couldn't watch one more clip of people running after food being thrown from a truck because they were so desperate for a handful of rice...   FULL POST


Filed under: Aid workers • Cyclone • Myanmar • Severe Weather
May 19th, 2008
07:22 PM ET

The candidates in Oregon... and hunger, too


Rachel Bristol
CEO, Oregon Food Bank, Portland, Oregon

It’s Oregon’s turn in the limelight. Presidential candidates are blazing a quick trail through the state as Oregonians turn in their ballots with the thought that this time 'round their late-primary vote will count.

Crowds flock to hear the candidates talk about energy, the economy, education and health care. But when it comes to talking about hunger ... they are silent.

That’s why I sent a letter to all of the major candidates ... red and blue ... inviting them to visit Oregon Food Bank ... to discuss their policy recommendations to eliminate hunger in the U.S.

In many ways, our efficient, 108,000-square-foot warehouse symbolizes what’s off kilter in America today. The American dream has failed too many people in our nation.

We are failing our children

Children who are hungry get sick more often, have more difficulty learning in school, and may face long-term, irreversible health problems.

FULL POST


Filed under: Aid workers • Food crisis • Raw Politics
May 19th, 2008
02:46 PM ET

Leaving Myanmar, the tears will come later

Victims of Cyclone Nargis rush to get first in line to receive donated goods from a local donor at a monastery outside the capital of Yangon, Myanmar on Monday May 19, 2008.

Victims of Cyclone Nargis rush to get first in line to receive donated goods from a local donor at a monastery outside the capital of Yangon, Myanmar on Monday May 19, 2008.

Editor’s note: World Vision is a Christian-based humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide. Laura Cusumano Blank works for the organization. Here is how she found out she would be traveling to the region to help the victims:

Laura Cusumano Blank
World Vision emergency communications officer
www.worldvision.org

I just hung up the phone with Thai Airways. Almost two weeks to the day that I got the "how quickly can you get to Bangkok?" wake-up call, I'm heading back to New York City. It feels like the last time I saw my husband, my apartment, and my favorite corner coffee shop must have been two months ago, but it's only been two weeks.

It's hard to leave this post feeling like there is so much work left to be done in Myanmar. I guess that's the challenge of being a communicator. My job ends when the real work on the ground begins. By then, the story has most likely died away, and yet another emergency has popped up in yet another forgotten corner of the world.

FULL POST


Filed under: Aid to Myanmar • Aid workers • Myanmar
May 19th, 2008
11:38 AM ET

Devastation and Hope in Myanmar

Victims of Cyclone Nargis smile as they receive donated goods from a local donor at a monastery outside the capital of Yangon, Myanmar on Monday May 19, 2008.

Victims of Cyclone Nargis smile as they receive donated goods from a local donor at a monastery outside the capital of Yangon, Myanmar on Monday May 19, 2008.

Editor's note: Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Scott McGill works for the organization and is currently helping with aid for the victims of Myanmar. He shares his experiences here:

Scott McGill
SavetheChildren.org
Asia Regional HIV/AIDS Adviser

Working in a disaster, you need to recalibrate your expectations and loosen up your locus of control — and do it fast if you are to healthily adapt to existing within certain limitations, including handling quite a few "no's".  But these past few days it has been much harder.

Managing the frustration of dealing with obstacles, tolerating the helplessness, telling yourself you are doing as much as you can while being painfully aware that there is so much more to be done.  I see it in the faces of my colleagues every day.  When I told some of them what my blog would be about this evening, they nodded in understanding and with similar tired but encouraging smiles.

Then as I sat down to write, I felt that it was much more pressing for me to talk about the people here facing even greater obstacles and challenge and somehow ingeniously rising above them.  For absolutely certain, this catastrophe is a very tall order in resilience and recovery.  Cyclone Nargis has eviscerated a densely populated part of the country and left barely told horror, vast swathes of misery and a depressingly long trajectory for recovery, which we are all in the development and aid community are only just beginning to come to grips with.

FULL POST


Filed under: Aid to Myanmar • Aid workers • Cyclone • Myanmar
May 15th, 2008
11:09 AM ET

Cyclone Nargis and my new 'day job' in Myanmar

Editor's note: Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Scott McGill works for the organization and is currently helping with aid for the victims of Myanmar. He shares his experiences here:

Children help out clearing debris from under the monastery May 10, 2008 in the village of Kyaun Da Min a few hours south of Pyapon, Myanmar.

Children help out clearing debris from under the monastery May 10, 2008 in the village of Kyaun Da Min a few hours south of Pyapon, Myanmar.

Scott McGill
Save the Children.org
Asia Regional HIV/AIDS Advisor

Life is trying to return to normal here in Yangon. Although petrol lines still meander down the street and drivers stand around waiting them out (chatting and puffing on green cheroots), the rotting debris of fallen leaves and branches and other evidence of the damage inflicted on the town is slowly swept up and trucked off.

The Yangon streets — once dominated by canopies of leafy, gnarled elderly mango trees — have been transformed permanently. It is almost disorienting to suddenly turn a corner and see buildings once hidden suddenly stripped of all greenery. We are still nervously dodging fallen or dangling power cables propped up by hastily fashioned bamboo struts, hoping that everything is tied up and somehow restrung before someone does, in fact, turn the power on. Generators chug and hum across the city. Somehow, we still seem to be able to get a continuous supply of diesel (however, prices remain beyond the reach of most people who club together to pay $15 for a generator per the hour to pump water into their apartment block tanks).

We contributed $20 today as our share on our street to re-erect power poles and reconnect the spaghetti mess of snapped and tangled cables. Our house guard and his friends climbed up a ladder and reconnected our telephone line and, for a few days, we had crystal clear, uninterrupted international calls accessed on the first dialing, but this has frustratingly gone for some reason.

FULL POST


Filed under: Aid workers • Cyclone • Myanmar
May 14th, 2008
10:11 AM ET

Helping orphans as another storm develops off Myanmar's coast

Editor’s note: World Vision is a Christian-based humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide. Laura Cusumano Blank works for the organization and is currently helping with aid for the victims of Myanmar. She shares her experiences here:

Laura Cusumano Blank
World Vision emergency communications officer
www.worldvision.org

I guess when you work in disaster relief, it always seems like the world is ending. Moving from one disaster to the next leaves little room to pay attention to the latest news back home.

First, a cyclone hit Myanmar and left tens of thousands of people dead – and countless more missing.

Children became orphans, fathers lost their sons, grandmothers became parents to their grandchildren. If that wasn't enough, two days ago, an earthquake hit China, and the rising death toll is now competing with the number of dead in Myanmar.

Add to all of that the recent weather reports about a tropical storm developing off the coast of Myanmar with the potential for a cyclone to form within the next 24 hours.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Yesterday, the World Vision office in Bangkok had a power outage – no email, no land lines, no air conditioning, no lights. Can anything else happen here?

How you can help...


Filed under: Aid workers • Cyclone • Myanmar
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