Canadian Red Cross

Canadian Red Cross

May 13, 2008 18:08 ET

Senior Red Cross Aid Worker Returns From Devastated Delta in Myanmar

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 13, 2008) - The situation in Myanmar's cyclone-devastated Irrawaddy delta is "overwhelming" according to Bridget Gardner, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies' head of delegation who returned to Yangon today following a two day assessment visit. Ms Gardner was the first international aid official to visit the disaster zone with official permission.

"The town of Labutta is unrecognizable," she said. "I have been there before, and now - with the extent of the damage and the crowds of displaced people - it is a different place."

According to Gardner, communities are in desperate need of basic shelter, as well as access to clean water and first aid. A first shipment of Red Cross Red Crescent tarpaulins has reached the town of Myaunmya where they have been used to cover the roof of the town's hospital, which was ripped off by Cyclone Nargis more than one week ago.

"Shelter is the issue here and all over the five locations we visited," she said. "In Laputta, there are more than 10,000 people without basic shelter and it has now started to rain heavily."

In terms of first aid, Gardner stressed the need for material support. "During the cyclone, many people held onto trees to avoid being blown away. At the same time they were almost 'sand blasted' by dirt and saltwater... (Many) lost the top layer of their skin and it's important that these injuries are treated before infections can set in."

Gardner also spoke about the remarkable efforts of Myanmar Red Cross volunteers, many of whom are working around the clock despite their own losses.
"I spoke to a volunteer in his fifties who was helping to pack family kits. He has lost everything and is now living in a hospital. But he still helps out in his local Red Cross chapter because he considers this his duty as a Red Cross volunteer. "They are true humanitarian heroes."

Two out of four massive Red Cross Red Crescent water purification units have arrived in Yangon. When all four are up and running they will be able to produce over a million liters of fresh water every day. Further aid continues to arrive in Yangon. Since Sunday, an additional five Red Cross Red Crescent flights carrying 25 tonnes of shelter materials and mosquito nets have been received. By Friday (May 16) an estimated total of 180 tonnes of Red Cross Red Crescent aid will have arrived in Myanmar.

Myanmar Red Cross has begun distributing rice in Yangon and more has already been sent to the delta area by road. Family kits for 10,000 people - consisting of tarpaulins, pots, mosquito nets, water purification tablets and soap - left today for locations in Yangon and the delta.

Canadians wishing to make a financial donation may give online at www.redcross.ca, call 1-800-418-1111 or contact their local Canadian Red Cross office. The 24-hour toll free line accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Cheques should be made payable to the Canadian Red Cross, earmarked "Myanmar Cyclone" and mailed to the Canadian Red Cross National Office, 170 Metcalfe Street, Suite 300, Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 2P2.

The Canadian Red Cross is a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which includes the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and 186 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Our mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity in Canada and around the world.

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