Skip to site content

More Aid Needed in Myanmar, Baptist Leader Says

Conditions in Myanmar remain desperate two months after Cyclone Nargis, according to the relief-and-development arm of the Baptist World Alliance.Rescue24, a search, rescue and relief effort by Baptist World Aid, reported “huge unmet basic needs for the victims of the disaster” that hit the country formerly known as Burma in early May.

Paul Montacute, head of BWAid, said donations are still being received for cyclone relief in Myanmar. Information on how to donate is here.

“Many families are living under makeshift shelter made of clothes, branches of trees or even under debris,” Rescue24 said in a 25-page report sent to the BWA. “Most of the water sources are completely destroyed or contaminated with human and animal carcasses,” the document said. “There is no proper facility for storing drinking water.”

The most urgent needs are food, drinking water, hygiene products, psycho-social support, shelter and livelihood support, according to the report.

Conditions have worsened with the onset of the rainy season, which lasts from May to November and brings frequent torrential rainfall.

BWAid Rescue24 is working closely with the Myanmar Baptist Convention, which formed the Nargis Relief and Rehabilitation Central Committee.

The greatest hardship in implementation, according to the report, is the fact that foreign aid workers are not allowed to visit the Irrawaddy Delta region and those who try it without permission endanger the local partners more than themselves.

Despite that, aid is constantly flowing.

“The MBC is sending food, drinking water, clothes, mosquito nets and medicine daily to nearly 100,000 survivors who desperately need the supplies,” reported BWAid Rescue24 aid and relief workers. “The relief material is being delivered directly to the survivors in the Irrawaddy River Delta areas by ferries, boats and cars from Rangoon.”

Also engaged in relief work, the MBC Women’s Department informed the BWA Women’s Department that “there are many people who are homeless, as well as jobless,” and stated plans to begin vocational training in some of the hardest hit areas.

Estimates vary widely as to the number of those who have died from the worst natural disaster to hit Myanmar. Figures range from 134,000 to near 1 million dead. Several million more are estimated to have suffered directly from the cyclone. More than 10,000 Baptists have been confirmed dead, and more than 94,000 Baptists were severely affected, losing homes, agricultural fields, and being displaced.

While Myanmar is largely Buddhist, Baptists have a strong presence among some of the marginalized ethnic and language groups in the country. The MBC claims more than 1.1 million members in more than 4,500 churches. It is comprised of 13 language conventions, five regional bodies and two churches.

Instead of causing competition among the various groups, outside aid has brought closer cooperation. “For those of us who have to give an account before the Almighty about the effects we have on a population or community, this is nothing short of a miracle and is great cause for thankfulness,” the report says.

The BWAid relief effort includes an “exit strategy of leaving behind a stronger, more competent Myanmar Baptist Convention and sub-conventions with better management and coordination skills, better facility and ability to respond to fearsome circumstances in the future.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.