As I wrote in this past week’s e-mail, cyclone relief efforts in Burma continue to be hampered by the incompetence and intransigence of the military government. In addition, the disaster in Burma has been overshadowed by the devastating earthquake in China, where the government has been somewhat more receptive to outside assistance.
Nonetheless, a humanitarian crisis still looms on the horizon in the Irrawaddy delta. The United Nations cajoles the junta, and there is international debate over the option of delivering aid by force. Fortunately there are several organizations that already have people in place who can provide at least a modicum of assistance to those survivors who still desperately need it.
Jack Kornfield recently issued the following appeal on behalf of the people of Burma:
Dear Dharma Friends,
I want to ask directly for your kind help for the people of Burma. As you know many of our Buddhist teachings have come from the tradition and generosity of the people of Burma. Now the devastating cyclone Nargis has plunged an already impoverished nation into chaos. The most effective way to help that I know of is The Foundation for the People of Burma (FPB), a U.S. registered charity I fully support. The Foundation already has 70 staff and volunteers on the ground and working to relieve suffering in sites across Burma right now, while most foreign aid workers are still waiting at the border for visas. Because FPB has worked in Burma for many years, it has been able to quickly mobilize its Burmese staff and partner networks to address emergency needs in target areas. To date, the in country staff has mobilized to provide basic survival supplies, including water purification tablets, food, mosquito nets, tarps and rebuilding and sanitation supplies to thousands of people in Rangoon and targeted Irrawaddy Delta areas. They are organizing local medical teams and businessmen as well.
Your tax-deductible contribution will enable the Foundation to continue this life saving work, and will enable us to be there for the long process of rebuilding lives. If you can, please contribute now. Your gift will go directly to the affected population in the bowels of this disaster.
Feel call or email the Foundation if you need more information.
The website is www.foundationburma.org; the phone is 415 217 7015.
Thank you for your generosity.
Alan Senauke, senior advisor to the Buddhist Peace Fellowship released a similar statement shortly after the disaster:
Once again, our hearts go out to the people of Burma.
Cyclone Nargis struck the Irrawaddy Delta of Burma (Myanmar) on Friday, May 2 with winds that reached 135 miles per hour, and a 12-foot storm surge that has left vast areas of the delta completely submerged. As of today, the official death toll has reached 25,000, but with dozens of towns and villages underwater, and countless coastal Burmese unaccounted for, the numbers will certainly go much higher. The storm moved up the delta, devastating Rangoon itself, with thousands of buildings destroyed. Five regions — Yangon, Ayeyarwady, Bago Divisions and Mon and Kayin States have been officially designated as disaster areas.
The scope of this disaster cannot yet be measured, and it comes just a week before Burma’s military junta, SPDC, plans to hold a referendum on a new constitution that would consolidate the generals’ illegitimate hold on power for the foreseeable future. The amount of energy and expense the junta has spent over these last months suppressing opposition to a forced referendum, hunting down and imprisoning dissidents, stands in sharp contrast to their failure to give timely warning to the delta’s population — when the likely path of the storm was evident to meteorologists all across South Asia. It stands in contrast to the government’s slow and deadly response to the storm itself, and to the obstacles it places to the receipt and distribution of disaster relief funds and material.
And yet the vote goes on, with a minor concession postponing the referendum in the flood zone until May 24. So we see the terrible possibility of disaster settled upon disaster — an imperfect storm of suffering.
Buddhist Peace Fellowship encourages the wider Buddhist community to respond in the following ways.
1. Offer humanitarian aid now to those directly affected by Cyclone Nargis. Emergency relief efforts can be directed towards BPF’s affiliate, the Foundation for the People of Burma (FPB), which already has some funds in Burma, and has the resources and connections in country that assure proper distribution and use of your generous gifts.
Foundation for the People of Burma
225 Bush Street, Suite 590
San Francisco,CA 94104
Phone: (415) 217-7015
Fax: (415) 477-2787
2. Write or email the Myanmar Embassy, expressing your compassionate concern for the Burmese people in this natural disaster, in hopes that the government of Myanmar will wholeheartedly devote all its considerable military and civilian resources to rescue those trapped in the path of the cyclone; will allow the free flow of international relief aid; and will indefinitely postpone the constitutional referendum until such a time as there can be a full and open vote — internationally monitored by respected parties acceptable to all sides.
The Honorable Ambassador U Linn Myaing
Embassy of the Union of Myanmar
2300 S Street NW, Washington D.C. – 20008
In addition to the Foundation for the People of Burma, UNICEF, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, the UN World Food Programme, the US Campaign for Burma, and the International Burmese Monks Association, are all collecting and distributing aid.
Finally, the BBC website has a worrisome report this morning on the effects of stress on the overmatched aid workers in Burma.
Metta to all!