Working from its Thailand office, Church World Service has begun preparations for cyclone relief to Myanmar.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is partnering with CWS on emergency relief for nearly 1 million people that the United Nations estimates were left homeless after Cyclone Nargis struck the Southeast Asia nation on May 3. Up to 100,000 people may have died, and tens of thousands are missing.
As of May 7, more than 22,000 were presumed dead from the cyclone, which struck May 3 and wiped out entire villages. Another 41,000 people are missing, according to Myanmar's state-run media. The path of Cyclone Nargis included Hsing Gyi Island, through the rice-producing Irrawaddy Delta and the main city of Yangon (formerly Rangoon) and finally into the Pegu region.
According to news reports, the first seven tons of U.N. relief supplies arrived in Myanmar by air on May 8, and U.S. officials said they appeared to be close to an agreement with the military government there to send in aid. Priority needs are identified as food, plastic sheeting, water purification tablets, basic medical kits and sleeping nets.
UMCOR has contributed to the CWS fundraising appeal, which raised more than $50,000 in less than a day and has been expanded.
Methodism has had a small but longtime presence in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Bishop Zothan Mawia of the Methodist Church of the Union of Myanmar was a delegate to the April 23-May 2 United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. The Methodist Church of Upper Myanmar was founded in Mandalay in 1887 by several British Methodist pastors and later became the Burma district of the British Methodist Conference. Both churches became autonomous when Burma gained independence in 1964.
The initial focus for CWS will be on food aid, followed by shelter needs. According to its coordinator for the Myanmar effort, the agency is particularly conscious of organizing food aid in a manner that "doesn't adversely affect local markets, in light of the current food crisis," which was further inflamed in Myanmar just after the cyclone.
CWS will promote adherence to international aid standards by the aid community in Yangon "to help ensure the best quality of response and coordination by all of us, at all levels, in this particularly difficult situation."
Contributions to UMCOR's response to the cyclone should be earmarked for UMCOR Advance No. 3019674, Myanmar emergency, and can be made online at www.umcor.org. Checks also can be dropped in church offering plates or mailed directly to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068. Credit card donations are accepted by phone at (800) 554-8583.
United Methodist News Service and Church World Service contributed to this report.