Primate’s Fund accepting donations for Burma cyclone relief

By on May 8, 2008

Much-needed relief for victims of the cyclone that hit Burma on May 2 are slowly making their way to devastated villages.

The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) is accepting donations to be sent to its partners in Burma (also known as Myanmar) to help victims of a cyclone that on May 2 killed tens of thousands of people and left about one million others homeless.

PWRDF, the relief and rehabilitation arm of the Anglican Church of Canada, said it would also co-ordinate its response with its fellow member agencies under Action by Churches Together (ACT).

At least two dioceses – British Columbia and Ontario – have already issued appeals to their parishioners to respond to PWRDF”s appeal for donations.

The diocesan bishop of British Columbia, James Cowan, said at least two vigils for the people of Burma have been held in his diocese, which has a companion diocese relationship with the Church in the Province of Myanmar. In 2006, Bishop Cowan led a delegation from his diocese in a visit to Burma.

“So far we are pushing PWRDF donations,” said Bishop Cowan. “Once the relief agencies have things in order, we as a diocese are intending to raise funds to assist with reconstruction in the Delta area, and with the Theological College in Yangon.”

Much-needed relief had been delayed due to the Burmese military regime’s reluctance to accept help from the international community. Aid agencies, concerned about the  military possibly siphoning off aid, also took time to figure out strategies for bringing in relief to those who need it most. “We will not just bring our supplies to an airport, dump it and take off,” the BBC quoted United Nations World Food Programme director Anthony Banbury as having said. The first UN aid flights were only able to land on May 7. Aircraft from Burma’s neighbouring countries like Thailand and India were allowed to fly in aid earlier.

Cyclone Nargis triggered a storm surge and flooding in at least five states where more than half of Burma’s 53 million people live, according to ACT. “In the low-lying Irrawaddy delta, around 5,000 square kilometres are under water. The Myanmar government has reported that nearly 22,500 people are dead and close to 41,000 missing,” said ACT in a statement. The BBC said, however, that fears have been raised that the casualties could number more than 100,000. BBC’s Burmese radio service reported that 14 villages in the town of Labutta, located near the coast southwest of Rangoon, had been swept away and many dead bodies were seen floating and decomposing.

The UN identified water purification tablets, plastic sheeting, basic medical kits, bed nets and food as priorities. ACT said its partners in the city of Yangon reported that water and electricity supplies had been cut, and the price of food and other basic needs had skyrocketed. ACT members with local partners in Myanmar, including Church World Service, Christian Aid, Danchurchaid, Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, Norwegian Church Aid, and Church of Sweden mobilized material, financial and human resources to help provide relief.

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