FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Vanessa Parra, +1-202-828-0110 x225;
Humanitarian Organizations Call on Congress to Increase Funding for Burmese Cyclone
Washington, D.C. – Earlier this week, twenty U.S. based non-governmental organizations called on Congress to increase its commitment to the disaster-stricken people of Burma with additional funding for on-going relief efforts. The full text of the letter can be found at here
“Despite numerous obstacles, private international relief agencies report that they are able to deliver assistance directly to cyclone victims. Right now, they are the surest way to get assistance to the people. We should make sure that they have funding to work at their full capacity,” said Joel Charny, vice president for policy at Refugees International.
The letter, sent to the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives, states, “We applaud the quick action by the Administration in pledging $16,250,000. But the scope of this tragedy will require larger U.S. assistance and a long-term commitment to the stabilization and reconstruction of disaster-affected regions of Burma…At this time, it is vital to ensure that USAID has the means to respond expeditiously as capacity on the ground improves. We urge the Congress to act now to make it possible for the U.S. to quickly respond to this tragedy.”
The letter continues, “After Hurricane Mitch, the tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2004 and the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, Congress passed supplemental spending bills that authorized multi-year commitments of funds for the emergency response, and we feel a similar commitment is needed for Burma.”
“Although incremental progress has been made in recent days, huge obstacles remain to meeting the emergency needs of the more than two million Burmese estimated to have been affected by the cyclone,” added Charny. “The Burmese government continues to block wider access by international personnel to the hardest hit areas of the southern delta region, and refuses to accept offers of logistical support, such as helicopters and boats, to reach isolated communities in distress. An all-out diplomatic effort involving the United States, the United Kingdom, China, India, and the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will hopefully convince the Burmese ruling military junta to accept the world’s generosity. Congress should be ready and willing to provide assistance if and when that door does open.”
Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises. In February and March of 2008 staff members of the organization traveled to Burma to assess the humanitarian situation inside the country. For more information, go to http://www.refugeesinternational.org/burma.