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August 11th, 2008
10:24 AM ET

First Lady puts spotlight back on Myanmar

First Lady Laura Bush visits Karen refugees in national costumes during her visit to Mae La refugee camp in Thailand's Mae Sot town, Thursday.

First Lady Laura Bush visits Karen refugees in national costumes during her visit to Mae La refugee camp in Thailand's Mae Sot town, Thursday.

Dan Rivers
Bangkok Correspondent

It was never going to put the press pack in the best of moods. A start time of 4:45 is so early, it’s almost a late night out for many of us. But we dutifully turned up to have our bags sniffed by a bored looking German Shepherd whose tailed had been curiously cut off (Security risk may be? Danger of flying cups and saucers, if he wags it too much??). It was then off in a huge convoy of mini-buses, SUVs, limos and police cars. A brief glimpse for me as to what it would be like to be royalty, having every major road emptied of traffic, and lined by Thai policemen. Our plane to the border was slightly less regal though – a C130, with netting seats in the back for the press and legions of secret service guys. An hour later, we arrived in Mae Sot, a northern Thai border town, close to Myanmar formerly Burma, to a torrential downpour.

Speeding though the lush green jungle along a surprisingly good road for exactly 45 minutes before arriving at Mae La refugee camp. I say camp but it’s really a mini-town of more than 38,000 refugees, mostly ethnic Karen who’ve fled from fighting over the border. Houses are meticulously built from bamboo, with roofs of over-lapping leaves. Laura Bush and daughter Barbara, along with their coterie of advisers, security guards and press officials must have seemed like an alien invasion to these isolated people. I wonder how the Karen viewed the insane rush that accompanied the whole event, 3 minutes here, 4 minutes there, the press being almost dragged and pushed from photo op. to photo op.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Cyclone • Global 360° • Myanmar
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
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
May 13th, 2008
03:20 PM ET

Ghosts of loved ones, and fear this might happen again...

Editor’s note: World Vision is a Christian-based humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide. Some of the aid workers dispatched to the region share their experiences helping the victims of the Myanmar Cyclone. Because of the inherent danger in Myanmar, World Vision is witholding their names.

From World Vision aid worker
www.worldvision.org

"I've met people who walked for days to get to Yangon from the Delta. They told stories of sleeping on the roadside, of bloated corpses floating on swollen rivers and of bodies strewn across the road. It had been days since they’ve had clean water to drink...

The travelers on foot told me about a 12-foot tidal wave that wiped out an entire village after hours of intense wind and rain...Disaster preparedness would have saved lives. World Vision deployed staff members to northern communities where the cyclone was first predicted to make landfall.

We were working with communities to prepare them for strong winds and heavy rain. Then the storm suddenly changed directions and headed south...

The people in this area had to escape by sea in small boats. I am told many drowned, unable to move through the violent waves fast enough...Many of us did not prepare our selves for the possibility that this storm could ruin our homes and steal innocent lives...The shock of losing loved ones, crops, livestock and homes can be deep and lasting.

I wonder if this will make people afraid to stay, afraid to sit with the ghosts of their loved ones and the fear that this might someday happen again."

How you can help


Filed under: Aid workers • Cyclone • Myanmar
May 13th, 2008
11:36 AM ET

"How quickly can you get on a plane to Bangkok?"

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:

Waiting to receive aid

Waiting to receive aid

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

Last Wednesday morning began with a 7:15 a.m. wake up call and the question – "How quickly can you get on a plane out of JFK to Bangkok?" I pulled my suitcase out of the closet, grabbed my passport, and started throwing some clothes into my bag. Jeans, boots, t-shirts, granola bars.

Within an hour, my boss called back. My ticket had been booked – with no return date – for the next flight leaving for Bangkok. I would be meeting up with a team of communications staff from around the world – Laos, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada – to help coordinate World Vision's media response to the cyclone in Myanmar.

17 hours later, I found myself in the middle of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, exhausted but eager to get started. I had traveled to Bangkok two years ago for vacation, but I never thought I would get the chance to return – and certainly not under these circumstances. Our office, on the 13th floor of a downtown high-rise, has a wall of windows that overlook the city. The sun would set and rise again before I got to sleep that first day.

In my first three days in Bangkok, I slept just 9 hours – and worked 63 hours. Tonight, I'm hoping to get at least 6 before coming back to work. The work is constant and draining – but exhilarating, too. From the moment I landed, I felt like I had been made for this job. My background as a journalist and my interest in humanitarian work had led me to World Vision, and World Vision led me to Bangkok. I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

How you can help


Filed under: Aid workers • Cyclone • Myanmar
May 7th, 2008
04:42 PM ET

What 100,000 people means...

David Reisner
360° Digital Producer

A U.S. diplomat says the Myanmar cyclone death-toll may top 100,000…

It’s hard to fathom just how many people 100,000 really amounts to.
How do we take in the death of that many people at once?

Here's one way to look at it: Imagine any one of these U.S. cities disappearing - overnight.
That drives it home for me, what about for you?

U.S. CITIES WITH POPULATION AROUND 100,000

What 100,000 means

  • Berkeley, California
  • Burbank, California
  • Waterbury, Connecticut
  • Pompano Beach, Florida
  • Athens-Clarke County, Georgia
  • Savannah, Georgia
  • Springfield, Illinois
  • Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Topeka, Kansas
  • Lafayette, Louisiana
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Manchester, New Hampshire
  • Elizabeth, New Jersey
  • Fayetteville, North Carolina
  • Norman, Oklahoma
  • Allentown, Pennsylvania
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Beaumont, Texas
  • Waco, Texas
  • Portsmouth, Virginia
  • Bellevue, Washington
  • Green Bay, Wisconsin

Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2006


Filed under: Cyclone • Myanmar
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