As most everyone knows by now, Cyclone Nargis has wreaked massive destruction in Burma. Current death toll estimates, from the military government, surpass 100,000, and about a million are supposed to be displaced. The damage will not dissipate quickly, either, and the damage will deepen the food crisis, both locally and internationally. While locals have been doing what they can, as people always do, it will not be enough. Others have begun praying to Phra Upagut (Pali: Upagupta) for protection and aid. Finally, a few Burma students have begun a blog dedicated the disaster, which can be seen here.
For those of you interested in what you can do to help, here are some suggestions from Burmese religion specialist Alicia Turner:
Many of you have been asking what we can do to help the victims of the cyclone in Burma this past week. As I’m sure you’ve read in the papers, the devastation is unimaginable, not only in Yangon/Rangoon the city where I lived, but especially in the villages in the delta region.
Unfortunately the military government there has been very reticent to allow international aid workers into the country, compounding the damage because people are left without food or clean water and disease is beginning to spread. To make matters worse, this morning they first granted two UN planes permission to land, but then when the planes arrived they sent back all of the search and rescue workers but seized all of the World Food Program supplies and equipment.
Most of the lines of communication are down, but I have had an email from a friend who live in Rangoon and used to work for the International Committee of the Red Cross. She says there are three organizations that are actually delivering aid right now on the ground and that could use financial support.
Merlin is a UK based medical relief association. They were already working in the delta when the storm hit. Their international workers were granted a visa, including a trauma physician. In addition, a tour operator has offered them a huge riverboat to serve as a floating hospital that can navigate the shallow waters of the Delta. You can make donations directly to them, or through the UK Disasters Emergency Committee.
The second two aid agencies, Medicins San Frontiers (MSF) and CARE have had a long standing presence in Burma. MSF is delivering aid in the delta now and are waiting for a plane of supplies today. CARE is offering water supplies in Yangon and will expand to the delta soon.
Finally thank you for all of your thoughts and concerns.
Al Jazeera also has a list of aid agencies attempting to address the unfolding catastrophe.