Myanmar (MNN) — Nearly two
months after Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar, the struggle to get aid to the
rural areas continues.
Many foreign relief groups were
barred from the country by the country's ruling junta. The government has also kicked medical teams
out, citing no need for them any longer.
However, the needs are still
overwhelming. The resiliency of the
people in the devastated Irrawaddy Delta region has been showing.
At first blush, things in Yangon
seem under control. Clean-up in major
cities is well underway. However, the
further away from the main cities you get, the more deteriorated the situation.
Using a borrowed cell phone, Vision
Beyond Borders' Patrick Klein spoke with us from Myanmar. He says
their team drove three hours south of Yangon, and then took a boat three hours
further south into the depths of the country.
The team expected to be helping
roughly 300 Karen families who were still struggling to put their lives into a
semblance of order. When they arrived,
though, they found five villages that had come together, numbering roughly 880 households
in the region severely affected by Nargis.
Cyclone Nargis hit May 2nd
and demolished whole villages, polluted water supplies and drowned crops. There has been no shelter, food or clean
water since then. Klein says, "We're the
first ones to bring aid into that area.
We have brought in rice and blankets; we brought in some water
purification supplies and some other foodstuffs. And the people were very, very
grateful for the help. We have some local Burmese teams that are going into the
The Myanmar government has
promised to take care of the surviving orphans, banning adoptions by any
individual and organization.
The task is huge. According to the United Nations Children's
Fund, of the 2.4 million people affected by Nargis, 40-percent were estimated
to be children. Because of the number of
orphans created by the storm, Klein says they'll be building four children's
homes that will be run by local believers.
The team is working on buying
land and getting plans drawn up for the construction of the new
dormitories. They need help with funds–not only for the immediate
aid but also for the materials to build homes. Vision Beyond Borders wants to provide a safe
place for the children to grow up, because of the child sex trafficking
problems in neighboring Thailand. There
are also reports of child slavers who kidnap young cyclone survivors and sell
them in other countries for menial labor.
All of these efforts are to
support local ministries and help them form opportunities for reaching out with
the hope of Christ. Klein urges prayer because:
"We have been working through Christian organizations here–local Burmese
people, helping them. That's been a
tremendous opportunity for them to share the Gospel, as they're giving out aid.
They're going right into the areas that are very much affected by the storm,
helping people rebuild, giving them rice (and) cooking oil."