UMC raises $10 mil for tsunami relief,
but need continues
By LINDA BLOOM
NEW YORK - As
Indonesian officials once again increased the estimated death
toll from the Dec 26, 2004 tsunami, United Methodists continued
their efforts to assist the survivors.
The denomination raised US$6 million (close to S$10 million) by Jan 25 for relief work. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is encouraging church members to continue making cash donations and collecting health and school kits and medicine boxes for shipment to South Asia.
Church members from Indiana and Missouri also have pledged to rebuild two Methodist churches damaged by the tsunami - providing additional space for community centres and clinics - in the Indonesian cities of Banda Aceh and Meulaboh.
BBC News reported on Jan 25 that Indonesian Health Minister Fadilah Supari estimated more than 220,000 died or were missing and presumed dead because of the tsunami and preceding earthquake. A United Methodist delegation recently visited Aceh Province in northern Sumatra, where most of the destruction occurred, carrying donations of medicine with them.
The new estimate brings the total killed in 12 countries throughout the region, including Sri Lanka, India and Thailand, to more than 280,000.
Many of the survivors are homeless. Methodists in Indonesia are providing aid to the 8,671 internally displaced people living in 11 camps around the town of Bireuen. Children account for more than a quarter of the camp residents.
Working with The Methodist Church in Indonesia, UMCOR plans to assist with cleaning-up operations in the Banda Aceh and Meulaboh areas, offer grief counselling and pastoral care, and embark on a pilot programme for house replacement.
In Sri Lanka, UMCOR expects to work with Methodists on community-based projects that also help to restore lost income for residents. Its partner in India, Churches Auxiliary for Social Action, has already provided emergency food and supplies to some 50,000 families and plans to build more than 800 temporary shelters.
UMCOR has worked in partnership with Church World Service on the delivery of health and school kits to tsunami-damaged areas. The Rev Kristin Sachen, an UMCOR executive, said the relief agency is anticipating making such deliveries for at least nine more months.
As part of Action by Churches Together - a global alliance that also includes UMCOR and Church World Service - the National Christian Council is coordinating medical assistance to 10 camps for displaced people around Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. Five of the camps are in church buildings, with about 1,800 lodged in the Methodist church.
Each medicine box contains both over-the-counter and prescription medicines, enough to treat 1,000 people for about three months. - United Methodist News Agency.
Linda Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.