Myanmar Cyclone 2008
On Sunday May 4, 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) with wind speeds of up to 120mph. The Ayeyarwady Delta area, mostly populated by poor rice farmers, was the most severely hit zone as the Cyclone brought a surge of water 12 ft. high over the land from sea. Millions of people have lost their homes and a massive amount of the country’s crops have been destroyed. As of Wednesday, May 7, over 60,000 people have been reported dead or missing.
Hidaya Foundation is appealing for funds to aid victims of this natural disaster. Currently, Hidaya has allocated $50,000 for relief in the first phase. Zakat donations are also being accepted and will be utilized accordingly for this cause.
Hidaya Foundation’s Response:
- On May 6, 2008 Hidaya activated its team for initiating relief work as it was apparent – based on the death toll and destruction – that the Cyclone affectees needed help at The Union of Myanmar (Burma).
- Hidaya Foundation made appeals to its donor base for monetary support. Hidaya has not made any appeals at this time for in-kind donations as it is not clear if Hidaya or any local partner organization will be able to clear containers at the ports of The Union of Myanmar (Burma). However, Hidaya will continue to ship containers monthly to Pakistan under its Container Shipment Project.
- Hidaya immediately contacted US Department of State (USDS) and requested for information such as restrictions etc. (if any) on US 501 (C) (3) non profits for working in The Union of Myanmar (Burma). Initially US Department of State provided information that no financial transactions can be made. Non profits can only send relief supplies. USDS also recommended that Hidaya contact the Office of Foreign Assetts Control (OFAC), at US Dept. of the Treasury.
- On May 6 Hidaya contacted the Office of Foreign Assetts Control (OFAC), at US Dept. of the Treasury and requested for OFAC policy in light of the current situation. On May 7, 2008 OFAC called Hidaya Foundation and gave information that per General Licence No. 14 , US 501 (C) (3) non profits can send funds to The Union of Myanmar (Burma) with a few conditions .
- Hidaya contacted the Embassy of The Union of Myanmar, Washington, D.C. for visa for its team. After several attempts, on the next day Hidaya team was able to connect with a live person. It was recommended to apply for Business Visa, which may take few weeks to several months due to current work load as visa is issued at The Union of Myanmar.
- Under the circumstance it was apparent that Hidaya needs to work with trust worthy organizations in The Union of Myanmar. Hidaya immediately started the research and selected two organizations for the qualification.
- Two organizations have already been qualified per Hidaya’s standard operating procedure (SOP) for the qualification of partner organizations. Annual reports for both the organizations have been reviewed and filed. In addition both the organizations and their Board of Directors have been cleared through various data bases issued by US Department of State, US Department of the Treasury, European Union & United Nations.
- Hidaya Foundation team was invited to a meeting at Mettananada Vihara, a Buddhist Monastery called by Burmese Community of San Francisco, Bay Area. The purpose of the meeting was to hear every one’s idea, build on each others strengths, and work in cooperation to help aid the battered and poor on the ground. Hidaya assured them the full support of the Muslim Community at this time of crisis
- Based on the overall situation, Hidaya intends to work towards the long-term rehabilitation of the affectees as soon as restrictions are softened.