Mennonites bring typhoon relief to storm-hit Vietnamese

By staff writers
December 18, 2006

A North American peace church aid and development organization which opposed the US war with Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s, and has continued to build positive relations ever since, is providing 30,000 US dollars worth of help to communities affected by Typhoon Xangsane in the central region of the country.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is a relief, service, and peace agency representing 15 Mennonite, Brethren in Christ and Amish bodies. The US headquarters are in Akron, Pennsylvania, and the Canadian HQ offices are in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Typhoon Xangsane created a landfall in central Vietnam back in October 2006, after striking the Philippines several days earlier. It was the worst storm to hit Vietnam in ten years, say analysts.

The disaster killed 66 people, destroyed an estimated 20,000 houses and damaged a further 200,000 dwellings, according to estimates.

Earlier this month (December 2006) Mennonite Central Committee distributed household supplies to 132 families in Quang Tri Province whose houses were flooded by the typhoon. Each family received pots, pans, two blankets, one mosquito net and buckets.

Recipients said that poverty made their lives very difficult even before the typhoon hit. Trinh Dinh Gia, a clam fisherman, said that Xangsane was only the latest of several storms that have flooded his family's house in recent years.

Gia's family has repeatedly rebuilt their small house on higher ground, but now they have reached the edge of their property and have nowhere to go, he explained.

Mennonite Central Committee says that it is consulting with local authorities and Vietnamese Mennonite churches to decide how best to spend the remaining funds on helping communities recover from the typhoon.

In 2004 MCC and the ecumenical agency Church World Service celebrated 50 years of cooperating with Vietnam – where human rights observers say the churches have suffered periodic waves of suppression, but where there have also been signs of greater religious openness n recent years.

It is now 32 years since the American-Vietnam conflict and 12 years since normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries. However, political and economic tensions continue.

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