Churches continue to put money into 'forgotten' Asian tsunami recovery

By staff writers
May 1, 2007

With media attention fixed on crises in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, communities in Asia slowly and patiently continue the process of recovery from the major Indian Ocean tsunami of late 2004 – with the active support of churches and other NGO networks.

The victims of the tsunami are described by some agencies as "almost forgotten", but their need remains very real.

Last week the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) from the USA announced that it is sending an additional 4.7 million US dollars in aid to economically vulnerable Sri Lankans still finding their footing after the Boxing Day devastation..

The aid bolsters a "challenging, complex and often dangerous environment," according to the Sri Lanka request.

Bishop Edward W. Paup of the Pacific Northwest area, president of the UMCOR board, highlighted the relief ministry's comprehensive approach. "It's not only about what we're doing for individual families but how our service will strengthen their sense of community," he said.

Included in the funding is 159,764 US dollars for upgrades to disaster response capacity of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka. The directors also voted to provide aid to some 650 vulnerable families returning home to Kabul and Wardak in Afghanistan.

The 177,868 US dollars will be used to purchase livestock and provide training for the families in animal husbandry as a means to earn a living.

Women and children, as well as displaced families and the elderly, are struggling to rebuild in Sri Lanka while in the midst of civil conflict that has intensified damage caused by the tsunami. Church funds will supplement public grants to repair or build homes for some 150 families, many of them headed by women, as well as provide job training or small loans to benefit another 8,000 families.

The UMCOR board approved nearly 2.1 million dollars for community development in Banda Aceh in Indonesia, another area devastated by the tsunami. Rebuilding homes continues to be a priority for UMCOR in the remote areas of Sumatra's northern tip.

Like the Sri Lanka programmes, this work will address holistic needs of new or repaired homes, strengthen business skills and restore roads, water sources and schools. For its work in Indonesia, UMCOR partners with local communities, international NGOs, United Nations agencies and the Indonesian government.

Funding was also earmarked for earthquake recovery in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Church World Service is UMCOR's implementing partner in the region, serving 75,000 individuals with health programmes, provision of fresh water and other health and psycho-social benefits.

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