UN says its in a race against time to provide people with safe shelter and prevent water-borne diseases
People queue for drinking water at a distribution point in Sittwe on May 17, 2023, in the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha's landfall. Villagers are trying to piece together ruined homes and waiting for aid and support. (Photo: AFP)
The Church in civil war–torn Myanmar is knocking on the doors of international aid agencies to supply relief materials to the Cyclone Mocha-hit Southeast nation.
We have asked aid agencies, including papal charity Caritas International, to deliver aid to affected places in Rakhine, Chin and Mandalay regions, Father Nereus Tun Min, director of Catholic Karuna Pyay, said.
Father Min added that Karuna Pyay covers the worst-hit Rakhine state and Paletwa township in northwestern Chin state, a Christian majority area, which is also the stronghold of armed rebels, fighting against the ruling junta.
Pyay diocese has requested benefactors to support needy families and has sought resources to repair damaged churches.
The United Nations has appealed for US$333 million to assist 1.6 million vulnerable people in Myanmar, many of whom have lost their homes.
“This perfect storm has devastated coastal areas, leaving hundreds of thousands of already vulnerable people without a roof over their heads as the monsoon looms,” Ramanathan Balakrishnan, UN humanitarian coordinator for Myanmar, told reporters from Geneva on May 23.
"A few private donors and religious groups are extending a helping hand"
“We are now in a race against time to provide people with safe shelter in all affected communities and prevent the spread of water-borne diseases,” Balakrishnan added.
Min said a few private donors and religious groups are extending a helping hand.
The Jesuits have provided more than a thousand roofs in Rakhine, while a private donor chipped in with cash which was distributed among 20 families who were Buddhists and Catholics from the port city of Sittwe, the hardest-hit township in Rakhine state, according to Father Min.
Four priests from Pyay diocese that covers Rakhine state reached out to Sittwe and Kyauktaw townships to deliver healthcare support, he added.
Nearly 102 religious buildings, including churches, 185 schools and more than 2,774 houses were damaged in northwestern Chin state after Cyclone Mocha, packing winds of up to 248 kilometers per hour and copious amounts of rainfall, hit many areas of coastal Myanmar on May 14, the Interim Chin National Consultative Council, which looks after administration in the Christian stronghold region, said on May.23.
Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government has put the death toll across the country at 455 while the ruling junta said the figure stood at 145 as of May 18.
Northwestern Chin state and the Bamar heartland of Sagaing and Magwe are strongholds of rebels, fighting against the military since the February 2021 coup ousted the elected government.
Because of the ongoing conflict and communication problems it is difficult to get a full picture of the destruction, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a flash report on May 23.
“No aid has yet to reach cyclone-affected townships in Chin state despite aid agencies having drawn a plan,” an aid worker from Chin state, who requested anonymity, told UCA News.
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