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Posted by on May 23, 2008 in Health | 2 comments

Disaster Relief – How to Help! (UPDATED)

Want to assist cyclone survivors in Burma and earthquake survivors in China?

TMV reader C Stanley suggests:

In reading this story, where China is specifically listing an urgent need for tents, I was moved to research and give to an organization that had been mentioned to me recently – a group that provides tents and other subsistence items in natural disasters.

One ‘box’ costs about USD 1000 (that includes the organization’s costs in delivering it.)


Each ShelterBox normally holds a 10-person tent and a range of other equipment, such as:

• Thermal blankets, insulated ground sheets & insecticide treated mosquito nets • A wood burning stove, or • A multi-fuel stove that can burn anything from diesel to old paint!
• Cooking pans, utensils, bowls and mugs • Collapsible water containers and water purification tablets • Basic tool kit –hammer, axe, saw, pliers, hoe head, trenching shovel, rope etc • A small, children’s pack containing drawing books, crayons, pens etc.

The organization has made it into Myanmar (they work directly through local contacts and are able to avoid some of the bureaucratic red tape of larger organizations) and is beginning to deliver boxes to the China quake area as well.

Apparently donors can find out specifically where their box ends up- each box is numerically coded- but I’m not certain on whether or not there’s a minimum donation to be able to track (I was told it was minimum of $250, but I don’t see that info on their website so I’m not certain.)

The charity got top rating from Intelligent Giving, a British rating organization- and they meet the basic standard of having 10% or less of revenue going to overhead and 90% going directly toward purchase and delivery of boxes. You can find a list on their site of their work to date, which is pretty impressive- they provided something like a quarter million tents after the 2004 Tsunami.

Caveats for anyone who considers donations- the payment is set up in British pounds since it’s a UK based organization (exchange rate currently close to 2:1 for USD: Pound.) And, I have no idea if this is tax deductible for US income tax purposes.

Seemed like a good way to get some immediate much needed assistance to these areas though, for those who are looking for a way to help. Since some of you have blogged about this, I thought I’d pass it along.

AJWS Cyclone Nargis Update:

May 21, 2008 – The effects of Cyclone Nargis are continuing to intensify: the official death toll is now almost 80,000 while aid agencies estimate that the number of dead could be 128,000 or higher. At least one million people are currently homeless and some 2.5 million people are at risk of starvation and disease.

AJWS has been in constant contact with grantee organizations in communities neighboring the affected regions since the disaster struck and is working with them to make sure that aid reaches those who need it most. AJWS emergency funding is supporting the Emergency Assistance Team, a coordinated relief effort that includes the Mae Tao Clinic and several AJWS grantees. Inside Burma*, the Emergency Assistance Team is visiting affected communities, assessing needs, distributing food and clean water, providing shelter and health services, and disposing of dead bodies. The team is also documenting the scenes and abuses they are witnessing.

Grassroots relief efforts like those supported by AJWS are vital to the people of Burma at this time. While some Southeast Asian aid workers are now being granted visas to enter the country, aid efforts are still being hampered by the Burmese junta and aid workers are still not being allowed into the most badly affected areas. It is estimated that aid has only reached 30% of those who need it, and there are reports that international aid is being sold on the open market instead of being distributed.

An AJWS contact in the region, who cannot be named for security reasons, had this to say: “The provision of lifesaving aid has been stalled due to the [junta’s] underreporting and inept emergency management… The people of Burma have been cheated out of accessing the help they desperately need during this devastating time.”

As the situation on the ground in Burma continues to develop, AJWS will continue to provide updates and reports from our grantees in the region.

Click here for an overview on the political situation in Burma and the work of AJWS in the region.

*The name Myanmar was given to the country by the SPDC in 1989. However, pro-democracy activists still use the old name, Burma, to vocalize their objection to military rule. In solidarity with these activists, and in opposition to the illegitimate rule of the SPDC, AJWS refers to the country as Burma.

JDC Relief

RAC’s Nothing But Nets project to prevent malaria in Africa.

The Washington Post’s list …

Are You Looking to Give?

Here is a list of some agencies providing relief to victims of the cyclone in Burma and the earthquake in China.

Action Against Hunger
212-967-7800, 877-777-1420

American Red Cross


American Jewish World Service
212-792-2900, 800-889-7146


Catholic Relief Services

Direct Relief International

Doctors Without Borders
212-679-6800, 888-392-0392

Global Giving

Mercy Corps

Project HOPE

Save the Children
203-221-4030, 800-728-3843


World Vision

The Washington Post does not endorse any charity or certify its work.

UPDATE: Be SURE to visit this new site Myanmar Relief which has tons of links and news on the situations.