Friday, March 23 , 2018, 11:23 am | Fair 59º


Direct Relief Mobilizes Aid to Myanmar

The group pledges $500,000 in cash and $200,000 in medical supplies to help the victims of Cyclone Nargis.

Santa Barbara-based Direct Relief International has committed $500,000 in cash and sent an airlift of $200,000 in medical supplies to support the millions of people affected by Cyclone Nargis, which hit Myanmar on May 2.

The Red Cross says the death toll from the cyclone, the worst natural disaster since the Asian tsunami in December 2004, could be as high as 128,000. Tens of thousands of people are still missing.

The cash commitment was enabled in part by donations from more than 8,200 individual contributors. The first cash grant was transferred to Australian Aid International’s emergency medical team on Friday. AAI, a longtime partner, dispatched an experienced five-person medical team—made up of physicians, paramedics and a logistics coordinator—to Myanmar this week.

The shipment of medical supplies were to be sent Monday. It will be received by one of DRI’s partners in Burma, whose facilities are located in one of the areas affected by the cyclone. DRI’s initial efforts to send the shipment were halted by the Myanmar government’s refusal to receive foreign aid. Jim Prosser, DRI’s communications director, emphasized that the medical materials have been “picked, packed, and wrapped and are sitting on the pallets waiting for the go ahead.” DRI’s Burma partner has received a special permit from the government to receive the shipment, including pharmaceuticals, vitamins, personal hygiene products and other medical supplies.

DRI’s program coordinator for Asia, Matt MacCalla, left for Thailand last week to assess DRI’s partners and relief efforts in the region. He said that DRI’s long-term strategy is to “coordinate and communicate better with DRI’s partners, international agencies and local organizations to provide the medical materials most needed by those affected.”

Natali Morad is an intern for Noozhawk and Direct Relief International.

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