A largely silent, slowly growing disaster continues wreaking havoc on the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of poor rice farming families in the Irrawaddy River delta of far Southwest Myanmar (Burma). This is an area much of the world first knew of only because the massively destructive Cyclone Nargis, which made news headlines five years ago. Because of its relative unimportance to all but those directly affected, this rainy seasons flooding is not being covered in world or even Asia regional news. Even as the flood waters erode – both literally and figuratively – people’s lives across the Irrawaddy River delta region.
Fortunately, our small but indefatigable CWS team is in the area already, ironically, working with communities in a disaster risk reduction initiative. So, with support from a number of member congregations and communions, individuals and our partner, AmeriCares, the CWS Myanmar team is responding. Together with the local Myanmar YMCA and Myanmar Red Cross Society teams, CWS is making sure families have the basics: rice and ways to ensure that the water is made safe to drink and use at home. Also, as supplies funds permit, we will provide new mosquito netting to families who need it. And, importantly, there will be information-sharing on actions to be taken to detect and manage Dengue fever and to treat snake bites, both of which have already claimed a number of children’s lives.
Importantly, because the DRR initiative is an ongoing one, CWS will remain in the region to help families cope with the exigencies of a lost rice-planting season and the myriad impacts this will have on their lives in the near-term and long-term. I passionately believe the flooding in Myanmar warrants the world’s full attention. Until that happens, I am proud that CWS remains on the ground doing what must be done. The flood survivors deserve no less.
Leslie Wilson is the CWS Asia Regional Director.