Myanmar Cyclone Update - Christian Conference of Asia

Myanmar Cyclone Update - Christian Conference of Asia

The United Church of Christ through Global Ministries is a partner with the Christian Conference of Asia. 

After the cyclone disaster:

Ten days after the cyclone disaster in Myanmar, death toll is estimated to be 100,000 according to the aid agencies, with a warning that it could rise up to 1.5 million without the provision of clean water and sanitation, while Myanmar's state media still insists on 28,458 dead and 33,416 missing.

Myanmar government has been criticized widely for its slow response over the aid relief, which could be translated into another "human catastrophe" according to UN. Humanitarian chief John Holmes was quoted about Myanmar's government response as "nothing like as much as is needed".

Gordon Bacon, the International Rescue Committee emergency coordinator in Yangon, said his teams are starting to penetrate some of the areas worst hit by Nargis and they are finding villages where all the homes are destroyed and survivors who have had no clean water since 2 May.

Until now, both governments and aid agencies have been excessively careful when they talked about the disaster in Myanmar. They obviously did not want to cause panic, but neither did they want to anger the country's military regime while there is still hope of access to one of the world's most isolated countries.

According to the recent news some amounts of aid have started to reach cyclone-stricken areas, which shows that government has eased the restrictions on foreign access to some extent. The UN, which has launched a $187m (£96m) appeal for aid, says survivors in the worst-affected areas urgently need food, shelter and medical aid. Aid has been flown in from countries, such as China and Thailand. The first US aid flight to Myanmar has also taken off from an air base in Thailand. Permission for the aircraft to land in Yangon was granted after a week of talks with Myanmar military rulers.

However the experts have warned that aid entering the country is vastly inadequate for the scale of the disaster. They say help has reached less than one third of those in need - and say many thousands of people are still missing (Source: BBC News).

Ecumenical Response:

Church World Service (CWS) and Dan Church Aid (DCA) on behalf of Action of Churches Together-ACT International, invited international organisations for a meeting on 9th May at the CWS office in Bangkok. Around fifteen people representing CWS, DCA, Diakonia, Rescue 24, German churches in Bangkok and CCA participated in the meeting. CCA General Secretary and Joint Executive Secretary for CCA-JID Rev. Freddy de Alwis took part in the discussions.

The meeting discussed the actions and efforts needed by churches and ecumenical organisations for the relief work in Myanmar. However, due to the visa constraints and restrictions churches along with numerous aid agencies are still waiting to get into Myanmar. Their contacts with the communities in Myanmar are also being affected, due to which the church organisations are finding it very difficult to obtain appropriate information from the country. Since Friday was declared a public holiday in Thailand, many of the church officials are still waiting for the Myanmar embassy to open and get their visa applications processed. Mr. Marvin Pervez, acting Regional Representative for CWS is in Myanmar at the moment and will return to Bangkok this week.

The Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT) has sent out a letter to the local churches and has appealed for their support in the humanitarian assistance for Myanmar cyclone victims. Contributions have already been received for this purpose, which will be sent to Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC) soon.

The MCC-Emergency Relief Committee (MCC-ERC) met this afternoon at Ecumenical Building in Yangon on 12 May. MCC-ERC has been actively distributing basic aid including water, food and medicines to the people in affected areas. Staffs from ecumenical organisations such as CWS, DCA and Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) are collaborating with MCC for relief work efforts. Their coordinating office has been set up at the Ecumenical Building in Yangon.

CCA was able to be in contact with Rev. Mar Gay Gyi MCC General Secretary who shared that MCC-ERC is working relentlessly to provide aid for the affected communities, yet "many people are waiting for help". Rev. Mar Gay Gyi will be in Bangkok next week and will visit Chiang Mai on Tuesday, 20 May. Contributions from churches in Thailand will be handed over to him for aid work.

Prawate Khid-arn

CCA General Secretary