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UMCOR approves $4.7 million for tsunami work

Sri Lankans displaced by the 2004 tsunami return home to rebuild their houses and lives. The United Methodist Church is sending an additional $4.7 million in aid to the area. A UMNS file photo by Paul Jeffrey, Action by Churches Together.

By Linda Beher*
April 26, 2007 | STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS)

A young tsunami survivor stands amid the rubble in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, in this January 2005 file photo. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey, Action by Churches Together.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is sending an additional $4.7 million in aid to economically vulnerable Sri Lankans still finding their footing after the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

The relief agency's board of directors approved the new money for the Sri Lanka project April 24. The board convened during the spring meeting of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, UMCOR's parent agency.

The aid bolsters a "challenging, complex and often dangerous environment," according to the Sri Lanka request.

Bishop Edward W. Paup of the Pacific Northwest area, president of the UMCOR board, praised the relief ministry's comprehensive approach. "It’s not only about what we’re doing for individual families but how our service will strengthen their sense of community," he said.

Included in the funding is $159,764 for upgrades to disaster response capacity of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka. Following UMCOR protocol, the money will be disbursed based on actual spending in the field.

In another action, directors voted to provide aid to some 650 vulnerable families returning home to Kabul and Wardak in Afghanistan. The $177,868 will be used to purchase livestock and provide training for the families in animal husbandry as a means to earn a living. The funds will close out the account "Love in the Midst of Tragedy," the United Methodist response to recovery needs following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

A holistic response in Sri Lanka

Women and children, as well as displaced families and the elderly, are struggling to rebuild in Sri Lanka while in the midst of civil conflict that has intensified damage caused by the tsunami. Church funds will supplement public grants to repair or build homes for some 150 families, many of them headed by women, as well as provide job training or small loans to benefit another 8,000 families.


Ibrahim Abbassayah rebuilds a house with Church World Service support in the Pidie district of Indonesia. A UMNS photo by Chris Herlinger, Church World Service.

Congruent with UMCOR’s policy of providing holistic solutions in disaster recovery, small-scale rehabilitation of vital community services will be part of the program and will impact about 14,000 families in four towns.

Examples include increasing access to fresh drinking water, repairing electrical networks and ensuring that schools have adequate sanitation facilities. "These grants demonstrate the strength of UMCOR's humanitarian presence in regions of the world that struggle to recover from the losses of disasters," Paup said.

Banda Aceh Revitalization

The UMCOR board approved nearly $2.1 million for community development in Banda Aceh in Indonesia, another area devastated by the tsunami. Rebuilding homes continues to be a priority for UMCOR in the remote areas of Sumatra’s northern tip.

Like the Sri Lanka programs, this work will address holistic needs of new or repaired homes, strengthen business skills and restore roads, water sources and schools. For its work in Indonesia, UMCOR partners with local communities, international nongovernmental organizations, United Nations agencies and the Indonesian government.

Funding was earmarked for earthquake recovery in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Church World Service is UMCOR’s implementing partner in the region, serving 75,000 individuals with health programs, provision of fresh water and other health and psychosocial benefits. UMCOR approved $500,000 for its share in the recovery.

*Beher is the communications director for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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