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UMCOR stays course in ‘mega-disaster’ relief

 


UMCOR stays course in ‘mega-disaster’ relief

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Volunteers sort through computer records and relief supplies at a center in Medan, Indonesia.
Jan. 18, 2005

By Linda Beher*

NEW YORK (UMNS) — How well do relief operations follow through with rehabilitation after "mega-disasters" such as the earthquake and tsunamis that swept the Indian Ocean Dec. 26?

The New York Times posed that question in a front-page story Jan. 11, using as examples the 1998 hurricane Mitch in Honduras, the 2000 floods in Mozambique and the 2003 earthquake in Iran. The story described unfinished housing dotting the Honduran landscape and uncompleted projects in Bam, Iran. "We are abandoned," a resident of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, said.

"In big, complex recoveries from mega-disasters, we plan to be in place for a long time — for years," said the Rev. Kristin Sachen of the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

"I do not doubt that more rebuilding is needed in Honduras, Mozambique and Iran. Though a number of organizations have left those three countries, UMCOR is still at work," she said, "just as we will be in the Indian Ocean region long after the media and dignitaries leave."

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

A fishing boat rests in the street in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
"Our volunteers are still rebuilding houses in the Honduran towns of Tegucigalpa, Subriana and LaCeibita," said the Rev. Paul Dirdak, UMCOR’s chief executive. "We sent 45 teams to Honduras in 2004 and have even more scheduled for 2005. In Iran, through grants to our partner, the International Blue Crescent, UMCOR continues to minister to children in Bam."

UMCOR has also built housing units in Cuba with funds donated for Hurricane Mitch recovery. In 2004, 20 families in a small fishing town at the west edge of Havana moved into new apartments and another 100 received upgraded water service as a result of UMCOR work there — six years after the hurricane struck.

United Methodist donations are still at work in Mozambique, another country mentioned in the Times. Floods in 2000 devastated whole villages. UMCOR helped build houses in the new village of Mangoanine for 70 families that lost both their homes and land. A second project begun later in Bantu involves building 138 flood-resistant brick homes using a brick-making machine purchased by UMCOR. Landmine removal and school construction are ongoing projects across the country.

"United Methodists are extremely generous in responding to disasters," Sachen said. "This means we can stay with people as long as it takes to get them back on their feet. It’s the way United Methodists do things — having the patience to stay with the most vulnerable, however long it takes. We don’t quit."

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

About 700 people displaced by the tsunami are living in this camp in Bateilik, Indonesia.
Cash gifts will help UMCOR continue to support local relief efforts in the South Asia disaster area as well as other regions. Checks can be mailed to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. One hundred percent of every donation to any appeal, including "South Asia Emergency," UMCOR Advance #274305, goes to support recovery efforts in the disaster-stricken regions.

Donors using a credit card may call toll free (800) 554-8583 or give online at MethodistRelief.org. The Internal Revenue Service will allow donors to decide whether to apply tsunami relief contributions to the 2004 or 2005 tax years, as long as the gift designated for 2004 is made by Jan. 31.

*Beher is communications director for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, a unit of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

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

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