Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is accepting donations towards relief in Burma/Myanmar where cyclone Nargis has killed at least 22,500 people, with over 40,000 still missing.
The director, Mike Smith, says the Catholic humanitarian agency be working through the international Caritas network, with its huge experience in responding to large-scale emergencies such as the Asia tsunami and last year’s cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh.
‘Right now, Caritas network staff in Burma and Asia are assessing needs and establishing communication with people and organisations in places affected,’ said Mr Smith.
The global network of 162 Caritas members, involved in relief, development, and social service around the world, is mobilising to support the people of Burma/Myanmar in their need. Caritas Internationalis president Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga has said ‘The message of our global network to them is that they are not alone. …The Burmese should know that we are doing everything we can to ensure international aid efforts get through.’
The Caritas network is receiving positive messages from the Myanmar government on their need for international help, and hopes this will translate to giving nongovernmental organisations greater access to affected areas.
‘Caritas is looking at the most effective ways to provide basic needs such as fresh water, medicines, food and shelter as soon as possible to prevent further and unnecessary deaths from disease and exposure,’ said Mr Smith.
Mr Smith said the worldwide desire to help in response to the cyclone should not diminish efforts to address other longer-term emergencies in the region. Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand supports the Thai-Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) in providing food and shelter to people displaced by difficulties within Burma.
‘Though little-affected by the cyclone, our partner was already facing a severe emergency from soaring rice prices. They’re still $6 million short of what they need to feed refugees this year, and may have to cut food rations by 50-75 percent.
‘The impact of the cyclone on rice crops in the Ayeyawaddy Delta will further affect food supplies for the TBBC. In light of the food crisis, we’ve recently bumped up our contribution, but our partner has told us that the collapse of relief services there could have serious humanitarian consequences and undermine the stability of the fragile border.’
To make a donation by credit card, www.caritas.org.nz or phone 0800 22 10 22 or post a cheque to: Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, PO Box 12-193, Thorndon, Wellington 6144, NEW ZEALAND.
For more information contact Martin de Jong, Communications and International advocacy coordinator, 64-4-496 1742 or 64-21-909 688.