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Burma Cyclone Aid Report

Avaaz Members from 124 Countries Donate $2,000,000 to the Burmese People

The Cyclone

Burma is devastated by the largest cyclone in its history

On May 2nd, a massive cyclone struck the coast of Burma. The impoverished and vulnerable Burmese people were not warned by their military rulers. As a wall of water swept the lowlands of the country, as many as 100,000 were killed and 2 million more lost their homes. The survivors continue to face hunger, lack of medical care, and the threat of epidemic and deadly disease.

Burmese Military Junta Stops Aid

As military rulers stop aid at the borders, monks come to the rescue

The world rushed to deliver aid -- but Burma's rulers stopped relief workers at the border. Incompetent and suspicious, the ruling junta feared that a foreign presence could undermine their power by bringing greater awareness of their brutal rule. Three weeks later, a donors’ summit has been scheduled that may reach a compromise on some aid being brought in, but the needless delay heaped daily suffering on Burma's people.

Our Response -- Go Around the Junta

Since last year, Avaaz has built a strong relationship with Burmese monks and civil society groups, building political pressure and raising funds during and after the democracy protests. After the cyclone, we worked with these groups -- the most respected and trusted institutions in Burmese society -- to do what their government would not: bring the people aid. Unlike governments, we didn't wait for the Burmese government's permission to send help. Avaaz members in 124 countries stood with the people of Burma, donating $1.6 million (€1.1 million) in a matter of days.

Getting the Money In

The map above shows locations where our aid has been received and deployed

It's been a challenge to the get such a lot of money in. Most Burmese groups can safely move only a limited amount of money each day through informal networks. Over time, the $1.6 million arrived successfully. We are currently working with the International Burmese Monk Organization and 7 other Burmese organizations, including monk groups, educational groups, and medical clinics, who have asked not to be named for their own security.

The way the money moves is through informal transfers between bank accounts and by hand. Sometimes it is as simple as a deposit in one country that is then withdrawn inside Burma by the account holder and then carried to a monastery or aid group. Because many merchants do this, the Burmese government cannot tell the difference between commercial funds and aid money.

This campaign was made possible by small contributions from Avaaz members all over the world. Please give what you can to keep our Burma campaign efforts going strong in 2008:


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How the Money is Spent

Once the money arrives and is distributed to aid groups and monasteries, it is used to purchase rice, medicine, fuel and other supplies required to rescue, house and feed the survivors of the cyclone. Even in many of the hardest-hit areas, local markets are still working, with merchants bringing goods from other regions. In other areas the monks and other groups are able to drive supplies in, or move them by foot. The map at left shows some key locations where our aid has reached survivors.

This work carries some dangers; Burmese junta has harassed and, in one case, attacked the groups we are working with. But in the vast majority of cases, soldiers simply arrive, warn our partners that their work must be authorized by the government, and leave. Once they are out of sight, the aid work continues.

It is a challenge in such circumstances to exercise complete oversight over how the money is used -- most of the work is in secret. But we have chosen to work only with the most universally respected institutions, and we have asked them to provide detailed lists of monasteries and groups who receive it. These details allow us to verify receipt of the funds.

Another Chapter in the People Power Story

Yesterday, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown predicted that global people power, organized through the internet, would be a major driver of change in Burma. Avaaz has shown many times how a global voice can impact the world, but with this campaign we put our money where our voice was -- we didn't just call on governments to act, we stood with the people of Burma and took direct action.

Our ability to rapidly pool the small amounts of money each of us can give into a large combined amount is a powerful way to make a difference in the world. If you are one of the 25,062 Avaaz members who donated, please know that we have heard many words of gratitude for your help from our Burmese partners. They still need our help -- click here if you would like to donate now: