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May 12, 2008

Myanmar: An Update and a Call for Help

Myanmar
The Associated Press

by Tom Loftus

Leading the news on the cyclone that devastated Myanmar last week has been the challenge in delivering aid to the victims. We are fortunate to have a dispatch from Simon Laxton of luxury travel service Abercrombie & Kent, who was in Myanmar when the cyclone hit. Still there now, he shares below first-hand experiences from the Delta region and discusses the actions A&K is taking to provide direct aid.

Want to help?  Abercrombie & Kent is coordinating fundraising efforts through the Friends of Conservation, which will donate 100 percent of all funds collected directly to purchasing and distributing life-saving supplies to those most in need.  

On the evening the cyclone struck we had just concluded a two-day meeting in Yangon, hosted by A&K Myanmar. There was little or no warning of the impending weather other than news that the airport had closed. The cyclone raced across the Delta area and into Yangon early in the morning of 03 May. . . . Huge trees were uprooted and thrown into buildings, homes, and across roads. Power lines were severely damaged throughout the region.

The devastation in the Delta has been truly beyond comprehension and more or less every home has been severely damaged or completely destroyed. . . .[T]he amount of water still lying on the ground is enormous and of course potentially the source of water-borne disease. Families have been split up and young children left without their parents. Many are injured . . . caused by people holding onto trees and any other protection they could find as the storm water surged through and debris in the water bruising and cutting them.

The Delta region provides a significant part of the rice eaten in Myanmar, and much of the current crop has now been lost. Key to recovery is to ensure that the October planting season can take place to ensure a medium-term stable food supply.

The A&K Myanmar team has already made one trip to the Delta with supplies of food, blankets, medicines, and water and three more trucks are on the way. . . . The A&K team in other parts of the country, supported by the local A&K guides, are purchasing food and cooking-oil products locally in places such as Inle Lake and Pagan and transporting this to the Delta, via Yangon. This takes a little longer but avoids the hugely inflated prices being charged by merchants in Yangon--some items have risen by over 500 percent since the cyclone.

Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy has donated an additional $10,000 in immediate aid and is coordinating fundraising efforts through Friends of Conservation. One hundred percent of all funds collected will go directly to purchasing and distributing life-saving supplies to those most in need.

Readers: Know of other organizations helping in the effort? Post them here and we'll spotlight in a future post.

More reading

* Cyclone victims face long-term food shortages
* Death toll climbs
* The cyclone's devastation rivals tsunami
* International Federation of Red Cross disaster management

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