The death toll from Cyclone Nargis, the storm and corresponding tidal surge that struck Myanmar last weekend, continues to climb. An initial estimate of 350 fatalities has risen sharply, with some now projecting 100,000 dead. Approximately one million people are homeless, hunger and disease are threatening survivors, and the city of Yangon, the country’s commercial capital, is littered with debris and lacks electricity. In addition, the government is blocking most international aid, according to news reports.
As the situation appears increasingly dire, the San Francisco–based Architecture for Humanity (AFH) already has mobilized its forces to help disaster victims. As of Thursday, the nonprofit organization had raised $10,000, primarily through an e-mail campaign, in just 24 hours. According to spokeswoman Stacy Sabraw, the AFH hopes to send in a volunteer assessment team and offer design services to devastated communities, with a focus on rebuilding schools and community centers. The organization plans to tap into its global network of architects, some of whom have permission to enter Myanmar.
Myanmar, the country in Southeast Asia formerly known as Burma, has been under military rule since 1962. Government officials worldwide have criticized the Myanmar junta for refusing large-scale aid from nations it doesn’t deem friendly. In some instances, the junta has been more accepting of aid from humanitarian groups.
After Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005, AFH initiated two programs to benefit victims. Through the Biloxi Model Home program, architects and designers have teamed up with residents of the Mississippi city to rebuild affordable, sustainable homes that meet new code requirements. In New Orleans, the AFH is building a recreational facility for Guardians Institute designed by Rockwell Group. The organization also helped rebuild communities in Southeast Asia after a deadly tsunami struck the region in December 2004.
To donate to the cyclone-relief effort, go to www.architectureforhumanity.org.