Tropical cyclone Nargis has claimed thousands of lives in Myanmar, triggering a full-scale response by World Vision.
World Vision International president Dean Hirsch said: “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. We know that some 2 million people have been hit hard. Many of them are already living in poor conditions and it will be very difficult for them to recover from this crisis without assistance.
“The destruction is unbelievable. Elderly people are saying this is the worst storm they have ever seen.
“My greatest concern is for the children of Myanmar who will be especially vulnerable at this time,” Hirsch continued. “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. The agency is coordinating with authorities to explore an airlift of emergency supplies into the country from one of its global warehouses.
World Vision assessment teams have been deployed to the hardest-hit areas to determine the most urgent needs. The agency is already providing clothing (sarongs and t-shirts) as well as tarpaulins and blankets to 100 households in the capital, along with 10,000 kg of rice and 7,000 liters of water.
World Vision estimates that up to 2 million people may be affected by the cyclone. The organisation has several community development programmes in areas hit by the path of the storm.
In Yangon, Myanmar, World Vision’s National Director James Tumbuan described a chaotic scene: “Yangon totally collapsed. All the roads were blocked with fallen trees. The way Yangon used to look, with its big trees, has been totally changed.
“Getting drinking water is a real problem, Tumbuan continued. “We need water purification units like those that were used in the tsunami. It could take days to get the electricity back.”
Tumbuan said thousands of people were now camped in government schools in and around Yangon. He noted that one school in particular was now sheltering 5,000 people.
Dr. Kyi Minn, World Vision’s regional HIV/AIDS advisor, said from Yangon: “The destruction is unbelievable. Elderly people are saying this is the worst storm they have ever seen.”
World Vision’s national office in Myanmar is based in Yangon – the country’s largest city and a state-declared disaster zone. The agency has worked in Myanmar for some 40 years and currently assists children and families across the country through food assistance, agriculture, health, clean water, education, income generation, anti-trafficking and nutritional assistance programmes.
More updates at World Vision Asia Pacific.
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