Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Myanmar cyclones and what you can do to help

The most experience I have had with Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) was my culinary adventures at the tasty Allston Burmese restaurant YoMa. However, recently the country has been briefly mentioned in newscasts after reports of terrible cyclones in the region that have caused massive flooding and distruction.

At first, it was reported just 250 people died, then 22,000, but now it is believed that over 100,000 people have died [updated 5PM 5/7] and thousands of people are missing. If the same percentage of the total population of the United States were killed or missing in a disaster, it would represent over 550,000 people.

Point is, 100,000 people killed is a lot of people, and in a country I know practically nothing about. I didn't even know how to correctly spell "Myanmar." So, I looked up a map on Wikipedia:

It's a little smaller than Texas, a little bigger than Afghanistan, and the largest country in Southeastern Asia.

And then I read a little Burmese history. I knew the country was under some type of nefarious government, but I didn't know that it used to be a British colony back in the first half of the twentieth century. It was then briefly a Democracy before a military coup. For the past 10 years it has been run by a strict military regime not known for its humanitarian actions (and that's putting it lightly).

International sanctions are in place, people struggle to get their basic needs met, and they have very few personal freedoms.

The devastating cyclones are one event that the government doesn't want to keep under wraps... mostly because they're using it to show how "well" they treat their people. They're handing out a few blankets and some food, but the area really needs significant help. From the director of Mercy Corps' European office:
"Burma is a country that had great needs even before this emergency. Now those needs are magnified immensely, and it will require a response that's beyond the capacity of any one country to restore normalcy to people's lives."
If you're interested in contributing to the relief efforts, try one of the following organizations:
  • Mercy Corps, which works to alleviate suffering, poverty, and oppression
  • Red Cross, which shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters
  • Foundation for the People of Burma, which has worked for nine years to provide humanitarian aid to Burmese residents regardless of religion or ethnicity
  • Feed the Children, which brings bringing emergency aid to homeless and needy children and families
  • Global Giving, which raises funds to help grassroots efforts internationally
A video from Aljazeera gives you a better idea of what's going on:

Please, help any way you can.

Related Posts: Chinese Earthquake: How to Help; Global Volunteering; Tornadoes, Cyclones, and Disaster Relief - Oh My!; Food Crisis - Get on the Seoul train

Numbers dead and missing taken from news reports citing the Myanmar government's estimated figures. Population statistics used to calculate the equivalent number of US victims taken from US census figures and Burmese population estimates as cited on Wikipedia.

Photos courtesy of the New York Times.


Kevin White said...

I'm looking to get involved in
the Boston area to help in
fundraising or such for the
Myanmar Cyclone victims
(978)937-1805 or kevinwhitepmsi

Casey said...

OYFP does not have any specific volunteer opportunities to help the victims of the cyclone in Myanmar, but if we hear of any fundraisers or such we will certainly let you know. Right now many disaster relief organizations are fighting just to get into the country!

Casey said...

I take that back! I just found out about a fundraiser at YoMa on Saturday organized by the Harvard Burma Action Movement. They will be selling art and other items to raise funds to send to aid victims in Myanmar.

Noah said...

If you look at this image, it is easy to believe 100,000 people have perished. And the government won't let anyone in!

Casey said...

Here's a link to the image Noah references: Myanmar - before and after Hurrican Nargis

The first image is Burma before the cyclone and resulting flooding, the second is after.

Casey said...

Google is matching donations: Google and Myanmar Cyclones, so give lots!