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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

May 20th: Suggestions on supplies - update from Myanmar

Local vs. Overseas if items are also available in local markets:
Some items are more expensive overseas. In Myanmar, there're locally made substitutes or "made-for-Myanmar" products that are less expensive. Transportation costs and time can also be saved. Plus, buying in local markets will also support the local business.

What they don't need:
Chocolates, biscuits, beauty products, luxury items.

What they need urgently:
· Food (some areas are getting enough from donors, remote areas are not). Main diet consists of rice, vegetables, meat, nga-peet. Anything along that line would be good.
· More urgently - "da-neet" and bamboo for building huts.
· Clothes (new or old).
· Boats. It's the same everywhere. People in easily accessible areas are getting aid. But those in the remotest regions are barely surviving, because they are hard to get to. Only boats and helicopters can reach these areas.

What they would also like to have:
· Instant coffee (lots of Myanmar rural people drink instant coffee mix everyday! this gives them energy, and some are even addicted to the caffeine)
· Instant noodles (not really necessary if they got their main diet)
· School uniforms, and money for school enrollment, and stationery (schools open in 2 weeks)
· Milk powder (for babies who lost their moms), most rural Myanmar's don't drink milk, Ovaltine, etc.
* Educate recipients to use boiled/bottled water for milk preparation for babies
· Plastic cups for bathing, washing, receiving rice rations, etc.
· Plastic plates and bowls for eating
· Bowls, pans for cooking meals

Some local prices for consideration: (just to get a general idea)
· There's an advertisement in the newspapers for 600-kyats tee-shirts, special pricing for donors.
· Toothbrush - 100-150kyats
· Instant noodles - 150-180 kyats
· Toothpaste - 350-400 ks
· Soap - 200 ks per bar
· Coffee - 130 ks per satchel retail price (whole economy bags bought in bulk are less expensive)
· Blankets – 3,500 ks
· Towels – 3,500 ks
· Mosquito net (single) – 6,500 ks
· 100 "Da-neet" cost about 15,000 kyats

A recent exchange rate was 1140 kyats to a US dollar.

Return to their farms:
The survivors are anxious to get back to their farms. The monsoon is starting now, and they need to plow and sow their farms. Women and children can stay in these refugee camps until alternative housing and/or relief can be made available, but the men have decided to return to the farms to start work. Only then will their livelihoods be back to normal. They need to build big huts housing about 20 men each near their farms. They can build the huts themselves, but they need "da-neet" and other materials. Such materials used to be abundant, but Nargis wiped out whole areas so things are scarce. Da-neet can only be bought from other regions (i.e. Mawlamyine) and transported by ship. But there's no such logistics system yet.

Saving the children:
Many, many children have been made orphans overnight. I'll spare you the heart-wrenching details. Orphanages need to be established to handle the extra load and really help these poor little souls continue their life journey on an even-footing.

Near Mount Popa, there is a monk who has pledged to provide space and sheter for 300 orphans. He will manage it, hire local staff, send the kids to government school which is nearby. He has enough space. But he needs help and donations to build housing and especially procure 6 month to 1 year ration of food. After that, he can take care of the orphanage himself, because enough donations should be rolling in on a regular basis by then (according to the monk).

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