Catholic partners of the global charity Caritatis Internationalis have begun delivering aid to the people of Myanmar suffering in the devastated aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. Though aid workers in the country report scenes of “death and mayhem,” aid agencies are still pleading with the Myanmar government to allow more aid into the country to avert a “human catastrophe.”
The death toll of the May 3 storm presently stands at 100,000 people and is expected to rise. At least 1.5 million people have been affected by the cyclone.
In a Caritas Media press release, a Caritas worker who was inside Myanmar during the cyclone’s landfall described the situation as “overwhelming.”
“Nature unleashed an orgy of death and mayhem, wounding an already suffering population,” said the aid worker, who wished to remain anonymous.
The worker was in Phyapon, down the Irrawaddy River, when the cyclone hit.
“The bodies of human beings and cattle were floating alongside our boat. We reached a destroyed village and were the first outsiders to reach them. Cyclone Nargis bombed them, flattened them and left them rattled with their spirit rattled,” the worker said.
“The body of a five year-old boy drifted by, [the] child of a mourning mother somewhere, the boy drifting in an unknown waters, waiting for a burial, unwept and unsung,” the worker continued.
The most crucial needs of people in the disaster area are water, food, and shelter.
“We witnessed children biting at old coconut shells as we went in,” said the worker. “Dead people and animals are everywhere. The people neither have the energy nor the will to bury them. There were many refugees, living in roofless churches and monasteries. Help has not reached them.”
Caritas Australia CEO Jack de Groot urged the speedy deployment of relief aid teams.
“It is clear the scale of this disaster teeters on becoming a human catastrophe unless we get emergency teams into the most remote and isolated parts of the affected areas – many of which are yet to receive assistance to this point,” de Groot said.
He said that the medical infrastructure in Myanmar is “already at breaking point.” If cholera or amoebic dysentery breaks out, hundreds of thousands of lives could be lost.
“We plead with the leaders in Burma to please, please, please allow international access to the international community who can offer critically needed assistance in Burma. The need is so urgent for international access. We can still avert a human catastrophe but our window of opportunity is diminishing quickly,” de Groot continued.
Church partners of Caritas Internationalis are providing food and other aid to 10,000 people in Yangon and Irrawaddy. They expected to increase their volume of relief aid to help 40,000 people by Wednesday. Church medical staff are also traveling to the worst affected areas to provide treatment to survivors.
At least $1 million has been spent on Caritas International’s relief efforts. The relief organization is coordinating its 162 national members to respond to the humanitarian crisis.
According to a Caritas Internationalis press release, Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon said, “As a Church, we are reaching out to the victims with all the means at our disposal. At this hour of darkness, we are encouraged by the show of support by our friends from abroad. There are urgent needs for food, water and shelter. Thousands are in need of medical help.”