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NEWS

Mounting a Global Response to a Massive Disaster
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Christy Feig
 
May 11, 2008

Slightly more than a week after cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar, relief supplies—such as tarps, water containers, water purification tablets, mosquito nets and hygiene kits—are arriving and being distributed. Earlier today, an airplane carrying American Red Cross supplies, including 8,000 mosquito nets, arrived in Myanmar. According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 220,000 people have received some form of aid, which includes 80,000 people who were assisted by the Red Cross.

A house destroyed by the category 4 cyclone that struck on May 2. (Photo: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies)
A house destroyed by the category 4 cyclone that struck on May 2. (Photo: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies)

Many more still need assistance. While reports vary, according to the United Nations estimates, at least 1.5 million people have been severely affected by this disaster.

“Hospitals, schools and other large buildings are crammed with the displaced,” says Joe Lowry, with the International Federation, who is in Yangon, Myanmar, the former capital city. “We saw evidence that some aid, such as newly-installed or repaired pumps are working, but the water around these buildings is blacky-brown and foul smelling.”

Although Yangon, with a population of six million, was not as hard hit as regions further south, Lowry reports that the damage in the city is staggering. Myanmar Red Cross volunteers are contributing to the cleanup effort that has led to more free flowing traffic—but many roofs were torn off, trees are down, billboards are twisted, and lamp-posts are smashed like matchsticks. More than 27,000 volunteers from the Myanmar Red Cross have joined the response.

Volunteers from the Myanmar Red Cross hand out relief supplies. (Photo: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies)
Volunteers from the Myanmar Red Cross hand out relief supplies. (Photo: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies)

Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world are pooling resources and relief supplies. So far, three planes from the International Federation loaded with 14 tons of shelter materials and other emergency supplies have arrived in Myanmar.

“Shelter materials and clean water are urgently needed,” says Alex Mahoney, Disaster Programs Manager for the Asia and Middle East region at the American Red Cross. “We are very concerned about diseases, like malaria, which can increase with so many people left homeless and living in vulnerable conditions."

The American Red Cross has been ramping up its relief efforts, working in close consultation with colleagues in Geneva, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur to coordinate response efforts and gather the latest information.

Since the cyclone struck, the American Red Cross has made available approximately $250,000 in relief supplies, including 10,000 tarps for shelter and 20,000 mosquito nets. In addition, the American Red Cross has committed $1.25 million for this relief effort, including a pledge of $1 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Staff from the American Red Cross and its international partners will continue to work tirelessly over the coming days to provide further assistance to those in need.

You can help those affected by countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. Please call 1-800-RED CROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the International Response Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation.


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