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Tim Costello is president of World Vision-Australia.

Imagine this: A massive cyclone sweeps up and over low-lying coastal areas, swamping homes and utterly transforming the landscape. Flooding wreaks havoc and days later whole regions remain inaccessible. The number of dead and missing rises dramatically every hour. The sheer volume of debris and destruction triggers feelings of hopelessness and despair — how to know where to start?

Then, in the country's hour of need, the government reaches out for help and the world responds. More than 60 countries offer money, goods, and expertise to help the victims of the cyclone.

This scenario is the story of the people of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina of 2005. America has the world's largest economy, and extraordinary resources and infrastructure. But even the most equipped government could not possibly have anticipated the scale of the devastation wrought on New Orleans.

Similarly, the scenes I am witnessing here in Myanmar have been dreadful. Enormous trees litter the roads and queues for fuel are 2.5 miles long, making travel in the country difficult. In the countryside, people are jammed into monasteries, school halls, and any other buildings left standing. There, they carve out strips of floor where the remnants of their families huddle. As of May 15, Red Cross/Red Crescent estimates the death toll at 68,000 to 128,000 people.

On the road to Bogalay, I saw people camped by the roadside. Already there are signs of malaria and skin infections. Beyond those camps there are still people we have not reached seven days after the cyclone, a situation that leaves me feeling frustrated at the pace of assistance, and guilty knowing that more can be done.

However, we are getting ...

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May 2008

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