“For the vast number of Americans, if they just gave to some disaster far away and then another disaster happens, in their mind that’s clumped as ‘faraway disaster,'” Strahilevitz says. “So they will feel, ‘I just gave to a faraway disaster.'”
It’s no secret that Americans are feeling less fortunate than in previous years. Escalating gas and food prices, the mortgage crisis and a recent “economic recovery” that only positively affected the most wealthy among us have left families seeing their household budgets shrink.
But as tough as we have it, it is nothing compared with what millions of people are going through right now in Myanmar:
MSNBC reports that Americans have given $12.1 million to charities for Myanmar relief efforts, far short of the $1.92 billion the US gave to assist the victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami.
This restriction on giving comes at a time when the military junta in Burma is just now allowing aid workers from ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) into the country. Relief agencies are optimistic:
“We’re not going to criticize people (such as ASEAN foreign ministers) for trying. Anyone that is trying to talk this through gets our support,” said Dominic Nutt, spokesperson in London for Save the Children.
“Anyone in an international organization would be concerned about the threat of violence. Force and humanitarian work don’t mix.”
The BBC reports that further details on this compromise with Burman’s military regime will be announced this Friday, May 25. It is likely that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will be in attendance:
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will arrive in Myanmar May 22 to work with the authorities to “significantly increase” the aid flowing through Yangon to the delta, the UN said. His visit comes three days before an international donor conference is held in Yangon to raise money for cyclone survivors.
The international community should “rise to the occasion and translate their solidarity and sympathy into concrete commitments to help the people of Myanmar emerge from the tragedy,” Ban and Asean chief Surin said in a joint statement.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is encouraging more Australians to donate more to relief organizations working in Myanmar:
“I know there are widespread concerns about whether aid contributions are in fact getting through to those who need it, but I am assured that donations are making it through, albeit with great, great difficulty and setbacks on the way through,” Mr Rudd said.
“I want to pass on the message from Tim Costello and other leaders of Australian aid efforts that our donations have succeeded in providing essential food and water to over 300,000 victims, saving many thousands of lives.”
Unfortunately in the US, President George W. Bush, and presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have been mostly silent when it comes to asking folks to search their wallets and donate to the ongoing relief efforts.
But for those of you reading this blog, please do what you can to help. Here are links to some relief organizations that are getting supplies into Myanmar:
Doctors Without Borders: http://www.msf.org/msfinternat…
International Burmese Monks Association (accepting donations through Avaaz): https://secure.avaaz.org/en/bu…
Save the Children: http://www.savethechildren.org/
International Committee of the Red Cross: http://www.icrc.org/
If you are unable to donate, please talk about the situation in Myanmar with your friends, family and co-workers. Awareness of the situation on the ground, and cutting through the constant drumbeat of analysis and punditry of the presidential race, can help convince others of the need to donate right now to those able to help the victims of the cyclone avoid starvation and disease.
Please keep the people of Burma (Myanmar), and the victims of the earthquake in China, in your thoughts, prayers and meditations.