Saturday, May 31, 2008

Project Enlighten’s Second Shipment of $4000US in Cyclone Aid Heads to Delta-

Many Cyclone Victims Forced to Leave Shelters

The first shipment of emergency relief aid, towards which ‘Project Enlighten’ contributed $4000US, reached many destitute and hungry cyclone victims in the districts of Laputta, Twantay, and Kongyangone. Watch a video of the loading of these supplies at:

Laputta is a low-lying western delta region that took the brunt of Cyclone Nargis a month ago. Posted now on the blog, you’ll see photos of two centres in Lapputta, where aid was distributed nearly 2 weeks ago.

The first shipment, totaling approximately $12,000US in aid, brought relief supplies to over 5,000 people. Fifty tents, each housing a family of four, were included. Eighty large bags of rice and water were purchased by ABITSU Burmese volunteers in Rangoon, and then all the supplies bought here in Mae Sot and in Rangoon were divided and loaded into smaller trucks and boats, and headed for the delta. I have about 500 photos that were taken of that first shipment!

Over the past few days, tragic news is emerging from Burma- The UN has reported that Burma’s military government if forcing cyclone victims out of the refugee camps and dumping them near their devastated villages with basically nothing!

Centralizing victims in camps, centres and churches has made it easier for aid agencies to deliver emergency supplies.

400 cyclone victims from Laputta district, housed in a Baptist Missions Church in Rangoon, were all evicted by the authorities on Thursday and taken back to their villages! They have lost families, homes and in most cases – their villages! These homeless cyclone victims are scared, sad and helpless.

Eight government camps in Bogolay district have been cleared out by the military, and the clear-outs are continuing. Some were given meager rations before they were moved, but if they had lost their identity card, they were given nothing.

Aid workers which have reached some of the remote villages say little is left there to sustain them and certainly no medicine. Military officials have told them that they can eat frogs. Thousands of corpses still litter the fields and waterways!

The military has told aid workers not to give anything to the thousands lining the roads seeking aid, saying, “…donations will spoil their appetite for hard work.”

The UN has sharply criticized this action. Terje Skovdal, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs stated, “People need to be assisted in the settlements and satisfactory conditions need to be created before the can return to their places of origins.” “Any forced or coerced movement of people is unacceptable.”

It is imperative that these victims be reached now more than ever. ‘Project Enlighten’s’ second $4000 of aid is in Burma now being distributed by Burmese volunteers that can gain access to the devastated areas. We ask that you please send ANY DONATION that you can – it all adds up! If you can’t afford to give, but want to help, then consider holding a small community fundraiser such as a garage sale, a pledged walk, or a penny campaign.

The BBC reported yesterday that the death toll is likely over 130,000. Of the 2.5 million in need of aid, only 1 in 2 has received anything at all.

All foreign aid workers are still experiencing bureaucratic hindrance in obtaining visas and gaining access to the delta region. 46 vehicles and cars of aid were impounded last Sunday night as they were making aid trips out of Rangoon. I had wanted to go into Burma to help, but that possibility is out of the question at present. If I did obtain a visa, I would not be allowed out of Rangoon.

Journalists have been banned from Burma. One BBC reporter was deported. I receive many disturbing photos from inside Burma which can be obtained by emailing me at . No words can express the dire conditions and paramount needs of the hundreds of thousands within Burma.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Emergency Aid Arrives by Boat to Stranded Delta Victims

May 28, 2008

Three convoys of emergency relief supplies reached stranded delta regions thanks to the generosity of those who are donating to Project Enlighten’s: ‘Burma Cyclone Emergency Relief Immediate Action Plan’, .

Posted now on the blog site you’ll see photos of aid distributed by boat to the delta.

Supplies include items such as plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, food, water, water purification tablets, plus various medical supplies and medicine including ORS (Oral Rehydration Salts) which treats dehydration and guards against cholera. Most days here now see temperatures hover in the mid-thirties, so ORS is vital to those exposed to harsh conditions in the delta. You will see a photo on this site of a baby holding a packet of this.

You can obtain a copy of the Excel spreadsheet detailing all the items sent and their cost by emailing me at .

Aid items are purchased here on the border and in Rangoon, where prices are much lower than outside of these countries, resulting in MUCH MORE aid going directly to the victims. Your donations go a long way here.

In the photos you’ll see Burmese volunteers wearing white t-shirts with a Burmese word on the front which translates into ‘Sympathizer’. These eager volunteers were recruited by ABITSU (All Burma Student IT Union), one of the Burmese organizations here on the border that are gathering donations funded through various western and European organizations such as ours.

The UN has estimated that of the 2.4 million people affected by the storm, about 42% had received some kind of emergency assistance. But of the 2 million people living in the 15 worst affected townships, only 23% had been reached. On May 26, the International Red Cross reported that at least 1.5 million people, many of them hungry and ailing remain homeless in the rain-swept delta. The UN also reports that 85% of school buildings were destroyed or severely damaged in the country’s cyclone-ravaged region. It will take decades for this already impoverished region to rebuild and replace all that has been lost.

Foreign aid workers are starting to trickle in, and I mean ‘trickle’! Paul Risley of the UN’s World Food Programme stated “Yesterday was a record, red-letter day with 7 visas applied for and 7 issued. But every step has required agreement with the government, clearance from the government, approved by the government of virtually all our actions.” Much more needs to be done to facilitate the swift processing of visas for foreign aid workers to get into Burma and through the military roadblocks in the delta region.

Sadly, the US and British ships loaded with relief aid and equipment stationed off the coast of the delta region, have still not been granted permission to unload their supplies in Rangoon, or to fly their on-board helicopters into the delta.

Burma’s PM Lt General Thein Sein said only civilian vessels could take part in the aid operation, and that they would have to go through Rangoon.

‘Project Enlighten’s’ funding of emergency supplies going into Burma via boats manned with Burmese volunteers is a working solution that is accepted by the Myanmar regime, and with your continued support we can send much more in!