Christians are helping flood victims in Bangladesh

By January 1, 2008

Bangladesh (MNN) — Relief teams in Bangladesh are now in their second phase
of the Cyclone Sidr response after a smooth and successful distribution of
emergency relief goods.

The real picture of Bangladesh's cyclone disaster is emerging, and relief
workers are intensifying their efforts to reach millions of survivors.

Food for the Hungry's Matt
Panos says one million families are homeless, a month after the storm slammed
into the country. Due to the scope of
the disaster, it was impossible for one agency to meet the needs of a million
families. "In partnering with agencies, we'll take portions of the
areas that are affected, and we'll try to serve those in the area. So if
the needs are bringing water, that's what we'll do. If the needs are to bring
in more food, that's what we'll do. If the need is to work with temporary
housing, then that's what we'll do."

As part of the first phase relief, Food for the Hungry distributed food packs
and warm blankets to about 4,000 families. Food for the Hungry Bangladesh is
also coordinating with FH Relief Unit about proposing to OFDA (Office of U.S.
Foreign Disaster Assistance) for shelter and rehabilitation interventions.

Jacob Kramer with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee
says their partner is working in Batakali, Galachipa and Kalapara, areas still
reeling from the storm's impact. "We've got to organize the supply lines,
and a lot of the roads are washed out. It's helping the people for today and
for tomorrow. Then, we will hope to respond in a stronger way with a
distribution of at least one month or two months. We will follow that up with
looking at the agricultural effects." 

The cyclone destroyed at least 600,000 tons of rice in the fields. That is
expected to make an existing food shortage even worse. Agriculture officials
estimate a shortfall of over 1.6 million tons this season. Storm damage
exacerbated the damage caused by multiple floods in July-September.

Powerful storm surges washed away nearly 30 percent of the country's shrimp
farms, and the standing water will hamper preparations for planting winter
crops including wheat, potatoes and oil seeds.  

With so much devastation at hand, do the teams think about sharing the hope
of Christ?  Always, says Panos. "The first thing you do is
to help people who are in need. That's the service of Christ here.
They're looking to us to help alleviate a dire situation where starvation,
water-borne disease, and potentially death is imminent. So our best response,
as soldiers of Christ, is to be there with that cold cup of water."

Kramer notes that this could well pave the way to ministry later. "They
are known to the population as Christians who bring health care and who now, in
their time of need, are there again with food. That is a strong witness to the
people both in word and in deed. We pray that we will have good opportunity to
show the love of Christ."




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