Myanmar church strong, but needs relief resources

By June 9, 2008

Myanmar (MNN) — New reports indicate 133,000 people are either dead or missing in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar. Those numbers are expected to increase as disease takes its toll on the victims. Many aid agencies are still being denied access to the region.

However, International Aid — a Christian humanitarian organization — was just allowed into the hardest-hit areas of the country. Senior Advisor for IA's Disaster Relief is Sonny Enriquez. He just returned from Bogale (bohg-ah-lay). "It's got a population of about 300,000 people, of which 80,000 people died in the process. There are about 32 relief camps around that area, and only 15,000 people are in the relief camps."

Enriquez says the damage in the Delta region is widespread. "Complete villages were wiped out. It reminds me so much of what happened in the tsunami of Aceh, Indonesia in 2004 where you would see half of the city wiped out as if a nuclear explosion occurred," he says.

The stories are tragic, says Enriquez. "This mother that I spoke to [said] three of her children were swept away by the floods and into the sea."

Enriquez says there's a reason they're able to help in Myanmar. "We don't really have ground presence. We work through partners. So we have to look for partners who are not only committed and trustworthy but are capable of implementing programs."

He says International Aid is helping those partners with six medical clinics that were sent out late last week, "which would be able to provide the health care for an approximate population of 50,000. And the organization, the partners that we have, have already identified the locations where they will be setting it up," he says.

While physical needs abound — food, water, medical supplies, shelter and personal care items — hopelessness is gripping each victim. Enriquez says, "This is an excellent opportunity for the church to mobilize itself, and that's what they're doing. They're actually doing something, but they do need resources. And it's a natural for a church to pursue that role. There could be significant, lasting change."

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