The Catholic Church in Myanmar is stepping in to ratchet up its flood relief efforts as more areas are at risk of being submerged by the rising waters of the Irrawaddy River. Karuna Myanmar Social Services, the Catholic Church’s social arm, said it is stepping in with emergency relief in key areas over the next six weeks. Myanmar has faced flooding, strong winds and landslides in 12 states and regions, including Christian-majority Chin state and Rakhine state, where more than 100,000 people previously displaced by sectarian violence were already living in basic camps. The heavy monsoon rains have left at least 69 dead and seriously affected 270,000 people, according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Aug. 6. This week, authorities urged people in low-lying areas, including parts of the populous Irrawaddy Delta, to evacuate because the surging river has reached dangerously high levels. Karuna’s efforts will focus on the distribution of food and drinking water, getting people to temporary shelters and constructing temporary toilets. It will use as much as US$28,000 from its Lenten Fund to help aid efforts in eight dioceses as well as another $12,000 for emergency supplies. Karuna in Pathein diocese has formed emergency response teams that are preparing to begin relief efforts Aug.7. “We together with other NGOs will be distributing food to flood-affected communities in Hinthada, Myanaung and Kyan Khin township in the Irrawaddy Delta,” said Father Henry Eikhlein, director of Karuna Pathein. Karuna Pathein is already experienced in relief operations, having helped during Cyclone Nargis, which devastated the Irrawaddy Delta in 2008. However, the situation is different in Hakha diocese in remote Chin state, where more than 1,000 households are affected and homeless due to flash floods and landslides. “This is the first time for such a bad situation in Hakha, so we are not prepared for the disaster,” Father Joseph, director of Karuna Hakha, said during a two-day meeting at Karuna Myanmar Social Services center in Yangon this week. Karuna Hakha has been evacuating people since July 31, when the state government asked for help in responding to the floods. Access to remote areas remains a challenge and food prices are high, the priest said. According to the World Food Programme, nearly 208,000 people are now estimated to be in need of immediate food assistance across the delta region. Thousands have lost homes, livelihoods, crops and food and seed stocks, exacerbating existing food insecurity and malnutrition, it said in a press statement. The Myanmar Red Cross Society also aims to provide relief supplies to 35,000 people in the most severely affected communities across townships in Rakhine and Chin states, and Magway and Sagaing regions.
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