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UMCOR, partners to respond to Bangladesh cyclone

By Linda Bloom*
Nov. 20, 2007 | NEW YORK (UMNS)

The United Methodist Committee on Relief will work with international partners to help survivors of the cyclone in Bangladesh.

As of Nov. 20, the death toll stood at 3,100 from powerful Cyclone Sidr, which struck the South Asian country Nov. 16. Many people living in the affected remote areas lost food supplies.

A full appeal is expected for aid to Bangladesh from Action by Churches Together, a partner agency, according to the Rev. Sam Dixon, UMCOR’s chief executive. UMCOR will contribute to ACT’s rapid response effort as well. ACT members currently in operation in the areas most affected by the cyclone include Christian Aid, Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh, Church of Banglandesh, KOINONIA and Lutheran Health Care Bangladesh.

ACT’s initial assistance of emergency food support ensured two meals a day for at least five days for such vulnerable groups as children, widows, the elderly or disabled and those without land in the five affected districts.

UMCOR also will work with its new partner, Muslim Aid, a British-based relief agency with an office in Bangladesh, to supply shelter, food and medical response. "This is an ideal opportunity for us to recognize the partnership," Dixon said.

The Rev. Sam Dixon

According to the Muslim Aid Web site, the group is delivering water, food and medicines to areas most affected. Three Muslim Aid teams are working in Bagerhat (Morelganj and Shoronkhola), Patuakhali (in Mirzaganj, Khepupara and Kolapara) and Pirajpur.
In collaboration with its partners, Muslim Aid is deploying more than 400 volunteers to survey the damage, assess water and sanitation and shelter needs, install tube wells and sanitary latrines, and distribute food and medicines.

Food aid to survivors is among the most immediate concerns. Usha Mishra, a senior advisor at the U.N. World Food Programme, told The New York Times that food supplies were severely disrupted and that shelter is another big need, with an estimated 1 million people left homeless.

Weathering disasters

 Cyclone Sidr is the South Asian country’s worst storm since a 1991 cyclone killed about 143,000 people. But Sidr is only the latest natural disaster for Bangladesh. In August, heavy rains and river flooding affected more than 9 million people, sending some 400,000 to temporary shelters and destroying crops. UMCOR worked with ACT partners on flood relief and supported Muslim Aid as it helped rebuild homes and distribute seeds and fertilizers to 4,300 survivors.

The United Methodist response to the Bangladesh cyclone will depend upon the amount of funds raised. Dixon said UMCOR’s international and domestic disaster response funds are low "and would benefit from contributions of United Methodists."

Contributions for Bangladesh can be made by check to UMCOR and dropped in local church collection plates or mailed directly to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Write "UMCOR Advance #202400, Bangladesh Emergency" on the check memo line. Credit card donations can be made at www.umcor.org or by calling (800) 554-8583.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

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

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