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Religious community shares in Myanmar’s heartache

Myanmar disaster

On the move: Young people help move stock through floodwaters in Kalay diocese in the northern part of Chin state.
Photo: Staff of KMSS, Kalay

THE Salesian religious community is sharing the heartache of more than one million flood victims in Myanmar while one of the order’s houses “miraculously” escaped damage in a field of devastation.

Salesian Missions Australian director Br Michael Lynch is appealing for urgent help for those desperately struggling to recover from the devastating floods resulting from Cyclone Komen which struck on July 30.

The cyclone caused severe flooding in 11 of Myanmar’s 14 states and divisions.

The United Nations reported on August 12 that more than one million people had been critically affected and Reuters listed the death toll at 106 people at least.

Receding floodwaters revealed widespread damage to crops and farmland.

Br Lynch said many of the people worst affected were living in makeshift evacuation centres.

“The Salesians have ten communities in Myanmar, five of which are in relatively remote areas,” he said.

A report from the Salesians in Yangon said the order’s house in Kalay, in the Chin region, was at the centre of one of the most flood-stricken areas, “but miraculously did not suffer any damage”.

The Salesian community there was already engaged in emergency relief.

Salesian Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon said in an August 4 statement that food and medical supplies were urgently needed to help thousands of people in Rakhine and Chin states and in Sagaing region.

“The scale of devastation is massive,” Cardinal Bo said.

“In a region (that) is chronically poor, the poor have (lost) everything and (become) refugees.

“Urgent survival assistance is needed in many villages.

“We appeal to all good-hearted people to come forward to support our brothers and sisters.”

Cardinal Bo called for particular attention to the situation in Rakhine state, which had been plagued by deadly religious conflicts in recent years.

He said the state was already home to at least 100,000 displaced people, mainly Rohingya Muslims living in temporary camps.

“Now their agony is compounded with nature’s fury,” Cardinal Bo said.

“The death toll is increasing, and massive homelessness, starvation and vulnerability to infectious disease is setting in.”

Caritas Australia is also responding through its Myanmar partner Karuna Myanmar Social Services.

“Priorities for the people of Myanmar include food, shelter, clean water and sanitation, and livelihoods rehabilitation,” Caritas Australia said.

KMSS director Win Tun Kyi said in a telephone interview that this was the worst flooding Myanmar had encountered and some parts of the country experienced severe floods for the first time.

“The people (in those areas) wouldn’t have been prepared,” he said.

“When the floods are so extensive and so unexpected we lose all our coping mechanisms.”

Food and water were the main needs immediately, the director said, but soon the people’s health situation would be a major concern because of contaminated water.

“We are much more worried about the aftermath,” he said.

To donate to Salesian Missions phone (03) 9377 6060, email salmiss@salesians.org.au/missions or write to Salesian Missions Office,
 PO Box 264
 Ascot Vale, Vic 3032.

To donate to Caritas Australia’s emergency relief fund go to the website www.caritas.org.au or phone 1800 024 413 toll-free.


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