Church development agency continues to help Burma cyclone victims

By agency reporter
June 25, 2008

While the world looks elsewhere, the humanitarian and political problems in Burma continue. But global church and development agencies are continuing to work on the short- and long-term development issues facing the country.

The US agency Church World Service (CWS) reports that as of yesterday, it has provided temporary shelter and fresh water supplies sufficient for nearly one million Burmese cyclone survivors.

On 19 June 2008 the Church World Service team based in Bangkok reported that its local partner in Burma had reached a total of 572 villages in the disaster-affected region and had provided supplies sufficient to serve more than 980,000 beneficiaries and had delivered 3,944 "water baskets." The water baskets, which capture rainwater, alone deliver the potential for 986,000 people to have clean drinking water. Each of the portable, lightweight plastic water container holds the equivalent of a day's clean drinking water for 250 people.

CWS says its local partner has also provided temporary shelter plastic tarpaulins for 41,374 households -- more than 25 percent of the total number of households (160,000) the United Nations has estimated to have received emergency tarps so far.

Other INGO members of the Action by Churches Together (ACT) alliance have also provided food and other non-food supplies to survivors in the target communities served by the local partner as well.

Church World Service is continuing its US fundraising campaign for Cyclone Nargis survivors and now is shifting to farm recovery and rehabilitation in the devastated Irrawaddy delta area, with focus on immediate agricultural assistance to ensure next season's crops and to build future food security.

"As with our recovery work following the 2004 tsunami, our model of 'disaster relief' is really about building disaster risk reduction components into any of our emergency recovery and rehabilitation programs," says CWS Emergency Response Program Director Donna Derr. "We're turning our attention in Myanmar to that kind of holistic recovery now."

Farmers in the area now have until around the end of July to recover their fields and paddies and get rice seed in the ground for next season's crops.

Concentrating on some 11 townships in the delta already being assisted, CWS and its local partner plan to provide farmers with farmland needed rice seed stock, field preparation tools, and equipment to compensate for the significant numbers of work animals-- buffalo and oxen normally used for tilling-that were lost in the cyclone. Additionally, CWS intends to provide capitol for hiring labourers from among those families who don't own farmland and need income.

"Because our philosophy is to work through local organizations- which helps people at grassroots levels build greater self-sufficiency and resiliency," Derr says, "with adequate support, CWS will be able to continue serving the Burmese people."

Cyclone Nargis cut a huge swath of destruction about 100 miles wide across 200 miles of the populous Irrawaddy Delta, killing an estimated more than 100,000 people and thousands of livestock and destroying homes, crops and property. Estimates say over two million people were affected.

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