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Tsunami Relief Effort Continues to Grow

Ten days after a tsunami killed thousands and displaced millions in Southeast Asia, aid workers continued to learn more about the scope of the disaster while relief funds for victims poured in from around the world.

Working with and through Baptist communities and other Christian groups in the affected countries and areas, Baptist World Aid has sent 11 emergency grants totaling $120,000, <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Paul Montacute, director of the Baptist World Alliance’s relief organization, said Wednesday. The funds are being used for immediate relief, providing shelter, food and water.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel have distributed about $100,000 to the region, including Global Missions emergency funds and more than $25,000 received online from individuals, according to a Wednesday news release.
 
American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. responded through their One Great Hour of Sharing. Nearly $50,000 has been sent so far for relief efforts underway in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and India.
 
Church World Services, an international humanitarian agency supported by 36 U.S. denominations, announced a fund-raising goal of $5 million. The agency has already spent $1 million and projects a three-year emergency response followed by long-term recovery efforts.
 
The British Baptist Missionary Society granted $78,500 to a partner aid organization in India to provide assistance to 1,000 people in five targeted areas in south India for emergency medical care, distribution of medications, blankets, food and kitchen utensils and counseling.
 
India is the third worst affected country from the tsunami after Indonesia and Sri Lanka, according to a news release. Latest reports are that some 9,500 people are confirmed dead, and thousands are missing. At least 140,000 people, mostly from fishing families, are in relief centers.
 
It is the fifth and largest BMS grant for tsunami relief, which so far totals $170,000. 
 
Canadian Baptist Ministries responded to urgent needs with $25,000 through The Sharing Way program. The funds will go to a Hungarian Baptist World Aid medical team working in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
 
In addition to financial gifts, Baptist teams from North Carolina and Texas prepared for overseas trips to provide logistical help for food and water distribution and to set up five emergency shelters for children in Sri Lanka.
 
Baptists already in place through international mission organizations, meanwhile, ministered where they were—some literally at their front door.
 
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship personnel prepared to work with local partners in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and Somalia.
 
“Even though our field personnel are not all trained as first responders, some of them are some of the first people entering devastating situations,” said Barbara Baldridge, CBF Global Missions acting coordinator.
 
“This is an area of the world where many CBF field personnel already work,” Ircel Harrision, coordinator of Tennessee CBF, said on the chapter’s Web site. “Their previous efforts offer opportunities for ministry now.”
 
Canadian Baptist representatives in Indonesia Bill and Janice Dyck focused on relief efforts on Nias Island in Sumatra, a small island near the epicenter likely to be overlooked by other agencies, because most effort focused on the Aceh province’s capital city.
 
Joel and Elise Vestal of ServeLife International in planned to work with and through indigenous churches in Nepal and Thailand and provide updates through a blog.
 
The confirmed death toll from the catastrophe neared 146,000, with 52 countries reporting nationals dead or injured. The U.N. warned that a  “tsunami generation” of children is likely to suffer more than adults as rebuilding efforts get under way in devastated Indian Ocean states.
 
Aid from world governments topped $3 billion when Australia announced a package of $764 million in grants and loans, making it the No. 1 single donor. Germany pledged $674 million, surpassing commitments by Japan of $500 million and the United States of $350 million.
 
The $350 million pledged by the U.S. represents the entire U.S. foreign disaster assistance budget. Congress pledged to work for emergency funds far beyond that total, perhaps into the billions.
 
U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Mass., compared the current amount of American funding with Norway’s. Although America’s $350 million is more than Norway’s $180 million, Olver noted in the Sentinel and Enterprise in Fitchburg, Mass., Norway has a much smaller population.
 
He said if the U.S. matched Norway’s contribution as it relates to its population, the amount of U.S. would top $9 billion. “It won’t be $10 billion,” Olver said of America’s total contribution, “but I would be surprised if it were less than $1 billion.”
 
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday the outpouring of American aid and humanitarian help in the region devastated by the tsunami might help Muslim nations see the United States in a better light.
 
“What it does in the Muslim world, the rest of the world is giving an opportunity to see American generosity, American values in action,” Powell said after meeting with Hassan Wirayuda, his Indonesian counterpart.
 
“America is not an anti-Islamic, anti-Muslim nation. America is a diverse society where we respect all religions,” the secretary said, according to the Associated Press
 
The American Institute of Philanthropy, meanwhile, warned against scams by phony charities popping up on the Internet. Americans wanting to help people facing a humanitarian crisis in Southeast Asia should contribute only to charities with an established track record, said the Web site charitywatch.org.
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
 
Previous stories:
 
Baptist Leader Sends Pastoral Letter to Tsunami Victims
Baptist Networks Speed Aid for Tsunami Relief
Reports From Sri Lanka
Baptists Work With Indigenous Group to Meet Needs in Sri Lanka
Baptists Respond to Southeast Asia Tsunami
Baptist Pastor Views Tsunami as God’s Judgment
Finding God in a World Of Tragedy