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Burma: Cyclone Aid Getting Through To Some Areas

Myanmar: Cyclone aid getting through to survivors

The head of the Catholic Church in Myanmar says aid is getting through to people in some of the areas most affected by Cyclone Nargis. Across the Ayeyarwady Delta region, survival remains a daily struggle for millions who are living in horrific conditions with no clean water, food, shelter or medical attention within reach.

"Many of these people would now be dead if it had not been for the work of the Church and the solidarity of Caritas and its supporters who have given so generously. The people of Myanmar for one of the first times feel a sense of being connected to the outside world and that we are not alone. For all the help, we're grateful," said Archbishop of Mandalay Paul Zingtung Grawng, president of the Myanmar Bishops' Conference.

The Archbishop was speaking on a visit to Rome to staff at Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella organization for 162 national Catholic humanitarian organizations that includes Catholic Relief Services.

"Our Church workers went immediately into the worst-hit villages to rescue people and bring them to safety. We are able to provide food, shelter and medicine to people in camps in churches. We are also able to deliver supplies to people who have remained in their villages,' reported Archbishop Grawng.

The issue of emotional trauma is significant in an environment in which the public display of emotion, even crying, is frowned upon. Children who have lost their parents are especially vulnerable. One of the priorities of the Caritas network's response is trauma counseling and support, and the protection of children.

'People are left with no means; children become orphans, and [suffer] deep trauma. Sadly the church is fast running out of resources....The violent cyclone damaged...our orphanages, clergy houses, convents and despite all this, the church has been reaching out to the woeful cries of the thousands,' said Archbishop of Yangon Charles Maung Bo.

Caritas Response

The Caritas network's response will reach an estimated 60,000 people in the hardest-hit areas of Ayeyarwady and Yangon with food, household living items, shelter, medical and psychological care, and means for child protection. To date, our partners have reached 26,000 people with food and relief. Three hundred local volunteers have taken part in trainings on assessing needs, distributing supplies, health, water and sanitation, and psychosocial support.

The silver lining on this dark cloud is the solidarity and acts of human kindness demonstrated so generously by the Myanmar people.

'The stories I have heard from the people who faced and survived the full force of the cyclone and continue to live with dignity and hope pay tribute to the unwavering nature of the human spirit. The humane acts of courage and kindness of those who have volunteered to assist the people in the Delta region, and the international support and solidarity received by the Church in Myanmar, show further evidence of the generosity of humankind,' said Archbishop Bo.


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