Catholic agencies begin sending aid to victims of Burma cyclone

 While the tragic toll of victims and damages from Cyclone Nargism, that hit Myanmar on May 3, continues to rise (in the wake of the aftermath, some analysts say it has claimed the lives of over 60,000), international organizations have begun sending emergency aid and humanitarian assistance. Caritas Internationalis has reached contacts in the area and the small Catholic community of Myanmar has begun "passing the word" throughout all the dioceses, finding volunteers to work in the areas affected by the disaster and taking care of those who have lost their homes. The President of Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, sent a message of solidarity, saying: "People in Myanmar are facing a terrible humanitarian crisis. The message of our global network to them is that they are not alone. Messages of support have flooded into our offices from around the world. The Burmese should know that we are doing everything we can to ensure international aid efforts get through. So far we are receiving very positive messages from the Myanmar government on their need for international help. We hope this will allow non-governmental organizations such as ourselves access into the affected areas." Caritas members have expertise in the region in responding to similar humanitarian crises, following natural disasters. "We know from past emergencies such as the Asia tsunami and Cyclone Sidr that getting fresh water, medical supplies, food and shelter into a disaster zone quickly can prevent a second wave of deaths from disease and exposure. Caritas are ready to use that experience to help survivors in Myanmar as quickly as possible." "The United Nations will do whatever they can to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to Myanmar, where hundreds of thousands of people are in need of aid," said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, announcing the establishment of an office dedicated to coordination of the emergencies, in Bangkok. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), that has nearly 70 agents already present in Myanmar, has opened its emergency deposits located in Thailand, to send plastic tarps and tents for 10,000 people to Yangon. The materials are being distributed by a Committee for Emergency Activity established by the Myanmar government. Many NGOs have begun sending tents, water, mosquito nets, and other emergency aid products. They have also sent a warning out to the countless number of homeless, reminding them of the risk of epidemics from the large number of corpses that have been left behind by the receding waters. Pope Benedict XVI has sent a telegram expressing his condolences, to the President of the Bishops Conference of Myanmar, Archbishop Paul Zinghtung Grawng. In the message, sent by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, the Holy Father expressed his heartfelt sympathy. The text reads: "With prayers for the victims and their families, he invokes God's peace upon the dead and divine strength and comfort upon the homeless and all who are suffering. Confident that the international community will respond with generous and effective relief to the needs of your countrymen, His Holiness asks you to convey his solidarity and concern to the civil authorities and to all the beloved people of Myanmar. " Source: Fides

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