Mercy Corps’ Response to Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar

Published 2008-05-09

Some of my friends are asking about Mercy Corps’ response to the Cyclone that’s affecting Myanmar. The short version is: Mercy Corps is mobilizing. The long version is: it’s complicated.

Our situation is still in flux right now ... we don’t have a program in Myanmar and we’re working to get people on the ground. The main hurdle is bureaucratic — the government is basically paralyzed and can’t add any new NGOs to their “approved” list, and isn’t really quick about approving visas. We have a partner agency (which I’m not sure I’m allowed to publicize yet) who already operates in Myanmar; in the worst case scenario we’ll be able to funnel aid through the partner.

I’m hopeful Mercy Corps can establish a program. We work at a special juncture between emergency relief (something like Oxfam) and long-term non-emergency development (something like Kiva). There’s an important transition between the two that’s often overlooked. Emergencies bring a lot of welcome aid, but when the emergency fades people lose interest. Mercy Corps has a good record of using emergencies to develop institutions of civil society. We often say “build it back, build it better.”

You can read more about our official response (and give online) at

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