Food crisis could hamper relief in Myanmar

By May 8, 2008

Myanmar (MNN) — As the death toll continues to rise in Myanmar, aid to those who survived could be slow and costly. Global Aid Network (GAiN USA) has a team en route to assess the needs and respond. However, this disaster could be a difficult one.

GAiN's Charles Debter describes the devastation. "It was a massive storm surge that came in with the cyclone that swept through Myanmar. With people living in bamboo and straw huts, it just wiped out entire villages. We're told that in one particular village, as many as 10,000 were killed."

The United Nations is calling it a major disaster with corpses floating in the water, bridges washed out, downed power lines and trees blocking roads, and overall there is just mass confusion.

Debter says once they are able to get into the country, they plan to provide emergency aid assistance: "Things like water purification tablets, food, if possible, and other aid into the area along with long term plans for providing water purification that will help through the long cleanup that will no doubt take place."

One of the worst problems, according to Debter, is the risk of disease such as "cholera, diarrhea and all those things that go with bad water. And with the water being contaminated by salt water as well as dead bodies, there's just an increased risk."

Malaria was a problem before the cyclone, so it will be an even larger problem in the weeks ahead. GAiN will be working with trusted partners on the ground to provide help.

As the global food crisis is affecting all areas of the world, this disaster could make it worse, says Debter. "Myanmar is known to [have] rice and exports of rice, and so we're hearing that they have food stockpiled. But prices are going through the roof."

Rice is available, but transportation routes are inaccessible. That means rural areas may face a food shortage crisis.

While Christians are helping physically, Debter says that's not their only motivation. "Any time we can go in and provide real tangible help, it will be an opportunity to show or demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ in very real ways. And if there are other opportunities, we will do that as well."

Prayer is needed not only for the visa issue but for the tremendous amount of funding that's needed because of the high cost of food. "We're seeking financial contributions to help purchase and ship and distribute the needed aid. Food and fuel are two of the greatest needs that they have, and both are rare to find and very expensive."

If you'd like to help the GAiN's work in Myanmar cyclone crisis, click here.

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