May 6, 2008
Cyclone Nargis ripped through the river delta city of Yangon, Myanmar for more than 10 hours -- from Friday night until Saturday noon, according to CNN.
Earlier this week, The Christian Post reported that the U.S. State Department said Myanmar's government had not granted permission for a Disaster Assistance Response Team into the country.
In the past, according to British relief association Christian Aid, the government of Myanmar has been reluctant to allow international assistance into the country at times of disaster. But now, in a reflection of the scale of the disaster, the government has called for international assistance, which has allowed Christian relief organizations to get involved.
As the death toll has risen to over 22,000 according to the latest estimates reported by CNN.com, President Bush and other world leaders are urging Myanmar's reclusive military government to better enable the flow of aid.
Response of Christian Agencies
Samaritan's Purse is reporting that in addition to the rising death toll, some 41,000 people are missing. Many more are homeless, thanks to a 12-foot storm surge that swept away entire towns and villages.
Thankfully, Samaritan’s Purse has a team of water specialists who were in Myanmar when the storm hit. Other Samaritan’s Purse emergency teams in Southeast Asia are mobilizing to respond to needs for food, water, and emergency shelter.
World Vision is estimating that overall, 2 million people have been or will be affected by Nargis's devastation, therefore shelter and water are the most urgent needs as World Vision launches a "full-scale" response. They are asking for $3 million in global donations to provide that aid to children and families.
"News is only slowly trickling out of the country, but it is clear from the information already available that this is a major catastrophe demanding an urgent response," says Dean Hirsch, president of World Vision International. "My greatest concern is for the children of Myanmar who will be especially vulnerable at this time. We must get them shelter, clean water, and food as quickly as possible. The threat of the spread of disease is always at the door when people are living in such conditions and children are the most likely to succumb to illness."
The government of Myanmar has invited World Vision to provide assistance in the form of zinc sheets, tents, tarpaulins, and medicine. World Visision is also coordinating with authorities to explore an airlift of emergency supplies into the country from one of its global warehouses.
Christian Aid is responding to the devastation as well, already having committed £50,000 for local partners to carry out relief work. Ever since the Cyclone first hit on May 3, Christian Aid staff have been attempting to contact partners in Burma, but finding lines of communication has been difficult with power and telephone systems down. Christian Aid also points to Myanmar's lack of an early warning system as a concern that needs to be remedied for the future.
Ways You Can Help
The agencies cited above list the following ways in which your help is vital:
Pray: Please pray for the survivors in Myanmar. Ask God to open the doors for Christians to work there. Pray for opportunities to demonstrate Christian compassion to people who may have never heard the Gospel. And please pray for children and families affected by this crisis.
To support Samaritan's Purse's ministry to victims of the deadly cyclone, click here.
To sponsor a Child in Myanmar through World Vision, click here.
To give to Christian Aid's efforts, please click here.