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It’s time for an update from Myanmar. I’ve been discouraged to see the type of coverage coming out of CNN and BBC and others regarding relief efforts underway there. And despite the fact that I am in the US, I’m still in daily contact with our people in Yangon, and therefore may be able to continue to provide a better sense of some aspects of the realities of providing relief in Myanmar than you will get if I leave you to fend for yourselves with nothing but television news as your guide! So here goes:

Among the biggest challenges to relief efforts right now is the distribution issue. This is the impression being given by international news agencies, but the perspective they take in reporting it is different than mine. Let me back up and give you some history. Before the cyclone, there were quite a few international, non-UN development organizations, as well as some local development organizations, working in the Ayewaddy Delta. These organizations had field offices in many of the main towns and larger village areas and had built up working relationships with local authority structures and local community members. When the cyclone hit, these agencies and their staff remained in place. Their international staff may not have been allowed to go out to those field offices post-cyclone, but the local and international staff who were already there were able to remain. This was threatened for awhile, but in the end, their continued presence was successfully negotiated. Certainly the lack of ability to put additional people in those field offices and out into the surrounding communities was a problem, but there was a presence.

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Observations on the Challenges of the Relief Effort

From a resident of Northern Myanmar — May 18, 2008 Although we are not allowed to go to the areas most severely hit by the storm, friends returning are bringing back images of its aftermath that haunt my waking hours. Buildings in piles of rubble with body parts visible underneath, bodies caught in trees and […]