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May 23rd, 2008
10:21 AM ET

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

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/23/art.myanmar.aid2.jpg caption="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'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/21/art.mynamar.aid.jpg caption="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
02:46 PM ET

Leaving Myanmar, the tears will come later

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/19/art.myanmaraid.jpg caption="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

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/19/art.myanmarsmile.jpg caption="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:

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/15/art.myanmarkids.jpg caption="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:

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/14/art.littleboyatshelter.jpg]

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.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/13/art.sheltercamp.jpg]

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:

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/13/art.waitingforaid2.jpg caption="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 9th, 2008
04:46 PM ET

Update: Aid for Myanmar Cyclone Victims

Kay Jones
360° Editorial Producer

I’ve been speaking with several aid groups about the relief efforts (or lack of right now) in Myanmar. Here’s the latest info from AmeriCares:

"A plane holding 15 tons of emergency medical supplies is loaded and ready to take off from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as soon as it receives clearance to land in Myanmar. AmeriCares – a nonprofit international relief organization – is sending the aid to help bring relief and comfort to the victims of Cyclone Nargis. The shipment contains medicines such as antibiotics, analgesics, ointments and multivitamins as well as medical equipment and supplies to treat the immediate needs of those injured and to help prevent the anticipated spread of illness and disease throughout the region."

Hopefully, with word of a US cargo plane being allowed to bring aid into the country, the governing military junta in Myanmar will be more open to other aid groups. We’ll keep on it and keep you updated here and on 360°.

If you’d like to help, you can check out Impact Your World at CNN.com.


Filed under: Myanmar
May 8th, 2008
10:17 PM ET

Myanmar: How Can You Help?

These are some of the reports coming in to CNN from the victims in Myanmar:

"All people I saw are crying so much and searching for the bodies of loved ones. There is bad smell from the dead bodies on the way we came. There are bodies where they have not yet searched. We found about 40 dead bodies on this way. A group of cows and buffalos are among victims. Everywhere... In the bushes, and in the streams. Everywhere..."

"The tide came up. Trees fell on people. There are many dead bodies lying under trees. Now many people do not have home to live in. I found so many dead bodies on the way, and so many animals that were terribly killed. A large group in each location. Not just children, also adults, elderly ones, all. Only 6 are left alive in the entire village." FULL POST


Filed under: Myanmar
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