Relief workers in Myanmar carry bags of rice provided by the Karuna Mission Social Solidarity (KMSS) in Yangon for flood victims in Bago Division in early August. (Photo supplied by KMSS-Yangon)
Teams from the Karuna Mission Social Solidarity (KMSS) — the Myanmar name for Caritas — have been rushing relief aid to villagers affected by widespread flooding in the Southeast Asian nation.
Despite trying conditions, a KMSS–Mawlamyine relief team led by Salai Bosco has been delivering food relief to affected villages in Palaw township of Tanintharyi division southern Myanmar.
Bosco said rice was the top priority as many villagers had seen their crops washed away. They were also unable to feed their families, he said, as they couldn't find rice to buy at local markets.
The five villages they focused on were among some of the worst hit by the heavy rains, and few NGOs have managed to get to them.
Bosco said the villagers in the affected area are from Kayin tribal groups — most of whom are Baptists with a minority being Catholic and Buddhists. Most of them support themselves by planting betel nuts and working on paddy fields but the flooding has put at least a temporary halt to this, leaving them struggling, he said.
At least 33 of their homes have been completely destroyed, he added.
KMSS-Hpa-an provides rice to Htone-Bo-Gway village in Hpa-an township on Aug. 7. (Photo by Isidore Aung/ucanews.com)
Father Hubert Myo Thant Oo, director of KMSS-Mawlamyine, said villagers have asked for rice for the next three months to tide them over.
"We have sent an official request to our national office asking if it can fulfill this request as more funding is needed to deliver rice to all 232 families," Father Myo Thant Oo told ucanews.com.
Tanithargyi has borne the brunt of the flooding since July 9 and is now bracing for a second wave of hardship as rain continues to pelt the region.
At least 20 people have died and more than 150,000 people have been displaced. The majority are now eking out a living at relief camps in the Mon, Kayin, Taniithargyi, Bago, Sagaing and Magwe regions, Myanmar's Disaster Management Department said on Aug. 9.
Houses, bridges and roads have also been destroyed in some regions in southern Myanmar due to the torrential downpours and gale-force winds.
Nature strikes again
Meanwhile, KMSS-Hpa-an is continuing to deliver rice to villages in nearby Kayin State, one of the worst affected regions where over 26,000 displaced people are now residing in 67 camps.
Father Paul Thar San, the director of KMSS-Hpa-an, said they recently sent 150 bags of rice to three villages near the state capital of Hpa-an.
"Some of the camps have already been closed but others are still quite full," he said. "Now they are concerned they might face a second round of heavy flooding."
Enough paddy has been destroyed that locals will require long-term support to foster their recovery, he added.
Over 1.1 million acres of paddy fields have been affected by the flooding across the country and 300,000 acres damaged, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and Irrigation.
In a bid to help, KMSS-Yangon has provided hygiene kits, rice, oil and salt to 27,000 people from 35 villages in Shwegyin township, Bago Division.
Lympard Francis, the emergency program coordinator for KMSS' national office, said the organization has provided the equivalent of US$ 3,500 to its branches in Mawlamyine and Hp-an from a special Lenten fund.
They met on Aug. 6 together with the Yangon branch and other church agencies Caritas Australia, CAFOD, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Trocaire to discuss how to help villages recover quickly.
Francis said they would carry out assessment surveys and first give aid to those villages that need it the most.
Myanmar Vice President Henry Van Thio on Aug. 8, called to set up a coordinating body to facilitate faster rehabilitation and clearly identify the worst hit areas.
Van Thio, chairman of the Natural Disaster Management Committee, said this must immediately follow search and rescue operations.