Environment

Editorial: The Disaster in Burma -- How You Can Help

International aid groups are facing problems getting to disaster-stricken areas of Burma, but a group of monks is on the front lines right now.
Note: The following appeal was sent to members of MoveOn.org, offering an alternative way to help with the disaster in Burma.

In the wake of a massive cyclone, tens of thousands of Burmese are dead. A million are homeless.

But what's happening in Burma is not just a natural disaster -- it's also a catastrophe of bad leadership.

Burma's brutal and corrupt military junta failed to warn the people, failed to evacuate any areas, and suppressed freedom of communication so that Burmese people didn't know the storm was coming when the rest of the world did. Now the government is failing to respond to the disaster and obstructing international aid organizations.

Humanitarian relief is urgently needed, but Burma's government could easily delay, divert or misuse any aid. The International Burmese Monks Organization, including many leaders of the democracy protests last fall, launched a new effort to provide relief through Burma's powerful grass roots network of monasteries -- the most trusted institutions in the country and currently the only source of housing and support in many devastated communities. You can help the Burmese people with a donation and see a video appeal to Avaaz from a leader of the monks.

Giving to the monks is a smart, fast way to get aid directly to Burma's people. Governments and international aid organizations are important, but face challenges -- they may not be allowed into Burma, or they may be forced to provide aid according to the junta's rules. And most will have to spend large amounts of money just setting up operations in the country. The monks are already on the front lines of the aid effort -- housing, feeding, and supporting the victims of the cyclone since the day it struck. The International Burmese Monks Organization will send money directly to each monastery through their own networks, bypassing regime controls.

Last year, more than 800,000 of us around the world stood with the Burmese people as they rose up against the military dictatorship. The government lost no time then in dispatching its armies to ruthlessly crush the nonviolent democracy movement -- but now, as tens of thousands die, the junta's response is slow and threatens to divert precious aid into the corrupt regime's pockets.

The monks are unlikely to receive aid from governments or large humanitarian organizations, but they have a stronger presence and trust among the Burmese people than both. If we all chip in a little bit, we can help them to make a big difference.

Click here to donate:

For more information about Avaaz's work to support the Burmese people, click here.

Read more on the latest news about the disaster in Burma.