Updated: August 04, 2021 11:04 AM GMT
A woman is tested for Covid-19 at a Catholic-run care center in Myitkyina in late July. (Photo: Myitkyina Diocesan Catholic Health Commission)
As the Covid-19 crisis deepens in Myanmar, more parishes have launched initiatives to help communities affected by the deadly contagion.
St. Gemma Galgani Parish in Shwe Pyi Thar township on Yangon’s outskirts has started a relief program to support medical help, refill oxygen tanks, spray disinfectants and help buy food for families.
Parish priest Father Paul Aung Myint Win said he launched the program following soaring cases in the community.
With limited financial resources, the parish is being helped by young volunteers.
“We must reach out to the communities and give our hands as people are facing challenges over the Covid crisis amid the political and economic crisis,” Father Win, a Dominican priest, told UCA News.
Church officials have established Myanmar Catholic Church Humanitarian Assistance Initiatives (MCHAI) to respond to the third wave of the pandemic.
Young volunteers have also helped in transporting emergency patients to the center and with funeral services of those who succumbed to Covid
Seminaries, parish halls, pastoral centers and boarding schools have been converted into care centers and accommodate people from every religion who are in a serious condition and needing oxygen support.
Father Henry Eikhlein, executive coordinator of MCHAI, said bishops have urged the Church to play a vital role in the Covid response at diocesan and parish levels across the country.
The priest from Pathein Diocese said at least three parishes in his diocese have started their own initiatives by opening care centers.
In Myitkyina Diocese in Kachin state, church officials have opened Covid care centers by transforming a boarding school and pastoral center.
Young volunteers have also helped in transporting emergency patients to the center and with funeral services of those who succumbed to Covid.
A parish hall has been converted into a care center at St. Patrick’s Church in Shatapru Parish in Myitkyina, Kachin state’s capital.
In late July, the parish priest of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lashio in Shan state reached out to needy families, while Salesian priests and seminarians from Thibaw supplied poor families with food and non-food items.
Father George La Ring, parish priest of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lashio, said they have provided rice, eggs, oil, beans and onions to nearly 120 needy families regardless of race and religion.
“Our help is just a small effort but shows our care and solidarity with the needy amid the challenges of the political, economic and social crisis in the country,” said Father La Ring.
The junta-controlled Health Ministry reported 312 deaths and 4,713 new cases on Aug. 4, taking total numbers to 311,067 infections and 10,373 deaths, but medics and charitable groups say the actual number of fatalities is higher.
Some 16 aid agencies operating in Myanmar have warned of a spiraling humanitarian catastrophe triggered by skyrocketing Covid cases and widespread violence six months after the military coup on Feb. 1.