(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries have been providing emergency relief and helping flood victims displaced by the heavy monsoon rain and flooding that has affected Myanmar this summer. A BBC report notes that nearly 1 million people have now been affected by the widespread flooding across the country since June. Myanmar government officials have reported that close to 100 people have died and 1.2 million acres of rice fields have been destroyed. Heavy rains in early August caused by Cyclone Komen worsened the already precarious situation and led to intensified flooding across much of the country.
International aid has begun to reach communities in need across Myanmar but continued heavy rain is expected to flood large parts of the low-lying southern delta region in the upcoming days and weeks. The area of most concern is the southwest region where the Ayeyarwady River and other rivers fork into a delta leading to the sea. This area is home to 6.2 million people, nearly 12 percent of Myanmar’s population.
“We’re very concerned about secondary flooding that is likely going to happen in the delta region as more water flows downstream,” said Pierre Peron, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in a recent Reuters news report about the continued flooding.
Salesian missionaries living and working in the region are responding to the situation with aid for the flood victims, many who have lost everything. The regions most affected include Chin, Rakáin, Magwe and Sagaing which the Burmese government declared a state of natural disaster. The Salesian house of Kalay, a boarding school in the region of Chin, is located at the center of one of the most flood-stricken areas but did not suffer any damage. The Salesian community in the region is already actively engaged in emergency relief work and also planning long-term rebuilding and education and social development initiatives to help flood victims.
“Because Salesian missionaries live within the communities they serve, they are perfectly positioned to respond in times of crisis,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Our programs are helping to provide food, clothing and shelter to those in need and our missionaries will remain through the long recovery process helping the many families who will be forced to rebuild their homes and salvage their livelihoods.”
Salesian missionaries in Myanmar have joined local authorities and other non-governmental aid groups in assessing the damage to determine the best course of action required long-term. At this point, missionaries are addressing the most basic of needs but as the death toll rises, they are reporting massive numbers of homeless people, starvation and vulnerability to infectious diseases.
In an August 4th statement, the Salesian Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon said food and medical supplies are urgently needed to help thousands in the inundated Rakhine and Chin States and in the Sagaing Region. Cardinal Bo called for particular attention to be paid to the situation in Rakhine State which in recent years has experienced deadly religious conflicts and was already home to at least 100,000 displaced people, mainly Rohingya Muslims living in temporary camps.
“The scale of devastation is massive,” says Cardinal Bo. “In a region that is chronically poor, the poor have lost everything and have become refugees. Urgent survival assistance is needed in many villages and we are calling on everyone we can to assist us in this work.”