Page last updated at 10:13 GMT, Sunday, 18 May 2008 11:13 UK

Burma: How you can help

Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for aid to Burma

The cyclone in Burma has killed tens of thousands of people and left up to one million homeless.

Aid agencies have been appealing for help since the immediate aftermath of Nargis on 2 May, and are continuing to appeal to head off a second wave of human disaster.

UK foreign office minister Lord Malloch-Brown has said despite "bottlenecks in the relief operation, many of them man-made", aid was now starting to be delivered.

So how can you help?

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

One of the major channels of aid is the UK-based Disasters Emergency Commitee - an umbrella organisation of 13 major aid agencies.

DEC MEMBERS
ActionAid, British Red Cross, CAFOD
CARE International, Christian Aid, Concern
Help the Aged, Islamic Relief, Merlin
Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund, World Vision

It was set up to streamline the donation process, and act as a co-ordinating body for aid agencies when a humanitarian crisis occurs.

The DEC say the most useful thing people can do is give money - rather than sending goods.

This means agencies can source as many supplies as they can locally. This cuts down transport costs and boosts the local economy. If people donate goods, there are big obstacles around transportation.

HOW CAN YOU GIVE MONEY?
You can donate money to the DEC by phone, internet or post. They take most credit cards.

If you have a credit card you can donate by phone by calling 0870 6060900; or via the DEC website.

You can also fill your card details in on a form and send it through the post. The form is on the DEC website, www.dec.org.uk.

Alternatively you can send a cheque made payable to 'DEC Myanmar Cyclone' to: DEC Myanmar (Burma) Cyclone Appeal, PO BOX 232, Melksham, SN12 6WF

WHAT WILL THE MONEY BE SPENT ON?

The DEC says the current priority is keeping survivors alive.

Member agencies are making their own spending priorities.

For instance, the Red Cross is spending money on getting tarpaulins, hygiene kits, water purification tablets, mosquito nets and high energy biscuits into the country.

Merlin has a hospital boat ready to go into the Irrawaddy Delta.

World Vision is setting up child-friendly spaces which offer a safe place for children.

Tearfund is also distributing aid through partner agencies.

The DEC is keen to point out that the task has only just begun - it will take years to rehabilitate all the victims. Spending priorities will evolve over time.

It says 25 (about $50; 30 euros) will provide mosquito nets for 10 people to protect from them from malaria.

50 (about $100; 60 euros) will pay for clean water and water purification tablets for one family for 3 months.

100 (about $200; 125 euros) will provide household kits for 10 families. A kit contains cooking pots, mugs, plates, cutlery, washing powder, toilet paper, toothpaste and toothbrushes, shampoo, razors, sanitary towels and bath towels.

CAN AID GET INTO THE COUNTRY?
The DEC says that one of the pre-conditions for it to launch its appeal was confirmation of access from the Burmese authorities.

The Burmese government is currently giving access to agencies on a piecemeal basis. Some flights have been given the go-ahead, and agencies are starting to get visas through for some personnel.

Whilst the DEC acknowledges that access is not being granted at the speed it would like, it is confident aid will reach those in need.

The Red Cross said its relief distribution operation was seeking to reach 2,000 extra homes a day.

Merlin said it had been able to provide some medical supplies.

Save the Children said it was imperative people did not stop their donations for fear supplies would fall into the wrong hands.

"Our message is that we are reaching these people and we really desperately need the funds to continue flowing," said spokesman Jasmine Whitbread.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU LIVE OUTSIDE THE UK

The DEC takes most credit cards, so you should be able to donate via the internet.

If that doesn't work then many of the DEC's member organisations are international, so it should be possible to donate to one of the international agencies via a regional office.

Alternatively, there are many organisations aiming to help in Burma that are not part of the DEC.

These include UN agencies the World Food Programme, the UNHCR refugee agency, and the Unicef children's agency, and aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres.

WHAT HAPPENS IF AGENCIES RAISE MORE THAN THEY CAN SPEND?

The DEC promises that money raised in the Burma cyclone appeal will be spent only on Burma.

It says it is highly unlikely it will receive too much money. There will be a vast amount of long-term recovery and resilience work to be done.

Once the immediate crisis has passed and citizens are safe, sheltered and fed, it moves to the rehabilitation phase - building villages and the economy.

There is also the resilience effort - training local staff so they can react to any future disasters, investing in early-warning systems and so on.

CAN I VOLUNTEER MY TIME?

Some of the agencies such as the British Red Cross, Oxfam and the Tearfund have regional UK branches. If you want to volunteer your time, they may appreciate assistance with basic administrative tasks. You need to ask your local branch.



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