It may not be making headlines now, but for weeks all we heard about was how difficult it was to get relief to the victims of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar -- for political and logistical reasons. When I heard about how our corporate contributions group had managed to send relief supplies, I just had to find out more about how we sorted all of this out. I reached out to Leila Mueller who, as Humanitarian Assistance and Product Giving Specialist for Johnson & Johnson, was responsible for working with different relief agencies to figure this all out, and asked her a few questions:
How do you choose which relief organizations to work with for an effort like this?
Johnson & Johnson has a long history of supporting disaster relief efforts, so we have strong relationships with international organizations like UNICEF and World Vision who have an established presence in Myanmar. We are also working with AmeriCares, Direct Relief International, Heart to Heart International, MAP International, and the Surgical Implant Generation Network (SIGN) to bring our consumer and medical products into Myanmar. Trust is a huge component in a disaster relief situation because we rely on our partners to tell us what is needed and how we can help.
I understand that getting relief to the victims in Myanmar has been more challenging than most relief efforts -- how did our supplies make it to those who needed them?
I was really surprised by the dedication and creativity of our partners in helping deliver products to people in the affected regions. One of many examples is AmeriCares. During those difficult weeks when the government of Myanmar was not granting access to many foreign relief workers, AmeriCares found a way to send medical teams into the country through Amsterdam. Once they arrived in Myanmar, the physicians, nurses, and other volunteers traveled by four-wheel drive vehicles and boats to reach people in remote areas who were in desperate need of medical assistance.
What else can be done now?
There are about 2.5 million people in Myanmar who now are homeless, so there is still much that needs to be done. With the help of our partners, we plan to continue supporting the relief effort and the rebuilding process -- those agencies include AmeriCares, Direct Relief International, Heart to Heart International, MAP International, SIGN, UNICEF and World Vision.