Relief Efforts for Myanmar Continue
by Linda Bloom
NEW YORK (UMNS)-Working from its Thailand office, Church World Service has begun preparations for cyclone relief to Myanmar.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is partnering with CWS on emergency relief for nearly 1 million people that the United Nations estimates were left homeless after Cyclone Nargis struck the Southeast Asia nation on May 3. Up to 100,000 people may have died, and tens of thousands are missing.
According to news reports, the first seven tons of U.N. relief supplies arrived in Myanmar by air on May 8, and U.S. officials said they appeared to be close to an agreement with the military government there to send in aid. Priority needs are identified as food, plastic sheeting, water purification tablets, basic medical kits and sleeping nets.
UMCOR has contributed to the CWS fundraising appeal, which raised more than $50,000 in less than a day and has been expanded. "We anticipate that Myanmar's officials will now be more responsive in granting visas to aid workers, in view of the enormity of their country's situation," said Donna Derr, CWS emergency response program director in Washington D.C.
In response to the emergency, the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control issued General License No. 14, which authorizes certain financial transactions to support humanitarian or religious activities by nongovernmental organizations in Burma (Myanmar).
The initial focus for CWS will be on food aid, followed by shelter needs. According to its coordinator for the Myanmar effort, the agency is particularly conscious of organizing food aid in a manner that "doesn't adversely affect local markets, in light of the current food crisis," which was further inflamed in Myanmar just after the cyclone.
On May 9, the CWS regional office in Bangkok will host a coordination meeting of members of the international ACT (Action By Churches Together) Alliance that intend to work in Myanmar. UMCOR also is a part of ACT.
ACT members with staff or partners present in the city of Yangon have reported that water and electricity supplies have been cut. They say that, while the greatest needs are for food and shelter, the prices of food and other essential items are skyrocketing.
CWS will promote adherence to international aid standards by the aid community in Yangon "to help ensure the best quality of response and coordination by all of us, at all levels, in this particularly difficult situation."
Contributions to UMCOR's response to the cyclone should be earmarked for UMCOR Advance No. 3019674, Myanmar emergency, and can be made online at givetomission.org. Checks also can be dropped in church offering plates or mailed directly to UMCOR, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068. Credit card donations are accepted by phone at (800) 554-8583.
A Sunday bulletin insert from UMCOR for local churches can be found at http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umcor/work/emergencies/ongoing/myanmar/
Date posted: May 13, 2008