Community-based organisations provide ongoing relief

Photo: ACT International

ACT News Update: Myanmar (Burma)

BANGKOK, May 28, 2008–“Aid is going out everyday, and local organisations are reaching thousands of people,” says an ACT member representative.
Through already established networks of community-based organisations, members of the global alliance, Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, have assisted more than 100,000 people since the days immediately following the Myanmar (Burma) cyclone.
The representative explained that ACT member-supported local organisations are mobilising hundreds of volunteers and are procuring relief goods locally in Yangon and in the Delta region.
With 134,000 people dead or missing, the UN estimates that 2.4 million people are severely affected. “Few countries possess the capacity and resources to cope on its own with disasters of this magnitude,” expressed the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in a press conference following his visit to Myanmar (Burma) two days ago.
“Under difficult conditions, the Government of Myanmar and the people have put together a functioning relief program, together with the international community. But much, much more needs to be done. We need to show unity of purpose and act with a real sense of urgency,” Ban stated.
“The effects of the destruction are seen almost everywhere… But what is striking is the coping mechanisms of the Burmese people,” explains an ACT member representative.
“The people are so calm and strong — even in the midst of tragedy — they still manage to smile. They are survivors. It’s the nature of their culture. They are mobilising themselves to help their families and their communities,” added the representative.
As one component of ACT member responses, community-based organisations are sending teams of local doctors, nurses and students trained in psychosocial care to visit the shelters housing cyclone-affected families.
“There are fantastic human resources inside Burma and they are being mobilised,” said the representative.
An ACT member reported that one of its supported local organisations traveled five hours by boat to support families in remote villages that had not received any aid three weeks after the cyclone — illustrating the capacity of communities to help themselves.
“The conditions were very bad — people had nothing,” the local organisation reported. “The pond they normally use to collect drinking water in the rainy season has turned into slime. It has been filled with salt water and all the water lilies have died. Now, we are trying to clean it up, but with the lack of diesel and water pumps, it is difficult,” the local organisation concluded.
ACT members plan to provide safe water to communities through the rehabilitation of 5,000 water points. Other planned assistance includes emergency shelter for up to 340,000 people along with at least 10 days of food aid for up to 68,000 people. Members are also planning distribution of non-food items for up to 112,000 people.
“People want to get back on their feet and they want to plant seeds for the second harvest,” said an ACT member representative. “Farmers only have six weeks for planting. They need seeds, small tractors, livestock and fertilizer. Our goal is for people to return home and to be able to plant their first crop.”
“This is an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe — and the opportunity (for cyclone survivors) to plan for the future is being eroded day by day,” said the representative.
ACT International launched a preliminary appeal for US $5,156,215 to provide emergency assistance over the next six months. ACT alliance members have launched national appeals for funding and have mobilised staff to support the initial response.
“Despite the enormity of devastation, the people of Myanmar are showing their strength and resilience, and are working to restore a future with hope,” said an ACT member representative.
ACT members Church World Service, DanChurchAid and Norwegian Church Aid contributed to this report.
Action by Churches Together (ACT) International is a global alliances of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide

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