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Burmese cyclone fund raises more than $100,000

UUSC-UUA fund has disbursed $30,000 already; relief delivery complicated and slow.
By Jane Greer

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The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee reported that the joint fund it set up with the Unitarian Universalist Association to aid victims of the Burmese cyclone has collected more than $117,000. Cyclone Nargis left a wide swath of destruction along Burma’s southern coast May 2–3, destroying homes and villages, especially in the Irrawaddy Delta area, home to 3.5 million Burmese. According to UN estimates, more than 134,000 people are dead or missing, and as many as 2.4 million were affected and now need humanitarian assistance.

So far, $35,000 of the money raised by the UUA and UUSC fund has been channeled to an organization working in Burma (also known as Myanmar), said Martha Thompson, manager of the UUSC’s Rights in Humanitarian Crises Program. The UUSC is currently working on proposals with three other groups, she said. Names of the organizations cannot be revealed for security reasons.

The UUSC, an independent human rights organization, works through partnerships it forms with grassroots organizations. In times of disaster they focus on helping groups marginalized from traditional aid strategies.

Money from the fund is being used for the distribution of food, medical supplies, and water treatment supplies. It is also being used to support children who have been separated from their families. In this last case, funds are being directed to monasteries to hire teachers for the children, Thompson said.

According to a New York Times report, the Burmese government is closing refugee centers and sending people home. “The situation is desperate and is going to get more desperate,” Thompson said. “People are now returning to complete devastation—and relief is minimal.”

The Burmese government has come under international criticism for strictly controlling the arrival of relief supplies and aid workers. According to the Los Angeles Times, only one U.N. helicopter was permitted into the country until June 9, when additional helicopters were allowed entrance. Many delta villages are accessible only by boat or helicopter.

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