A devastating cyclone has claimed the lives of as many as 22,500 victims in Burma, leaving hundreds of thousands more without homes, food or clean drinking water. Over 41,000 other victims have been declared missing in the storm’s aftermath.
Cyclone Nargis hit the Southeast Asian country in the early morning hours of May 3, 2008, where the 120- mile per hour winds tore the roofs off homes, schools and hospitals, and cut electricity in Yangon, Burma’s largest city. Reports from the low-lying Irawaddy region are indicating that as many as 95 percent of the homes in neighboring villages have been destroyed. Many other villages are still under water, cut off from all communications and with no relief aid in sight.
According to experts, reconstruction of many of the devastated towns could take years, and at least 40 days to reinstall electrical lines in some areas.
In the wake of the destruction, Burma’s government now faces criticism from the international community for failing to properly alert its citizens of the impending storm. First Lady Laura Bush, a long-time critic of Burma’s repressive military regime, has also condemned the country’s leaders for not accepting U.S. disaster relief aid, claiming that their response to the cyclone is “the most recent example of the junta’s failure to meet its people’s basic needs.” After a meeting with foreign diplomats and U.N. representatives, Burmese officials were said to welcome international assistance; however, the restrictive conditions on what type of relief aid will be permitted into the country from outside agencies is potentially costing the lives of thousands of desperate victims.
Christian Freedom International (CFI), a Michigan- based humanitarian organization that provides aid to persecuted Karen and Karenni Christians in Burma, is among the independent organizations that are preparing to deliver emergency assistance to thousands of cyclone victims into the region. Although none of CFI’s existing schools, orphanages, or medical clinics were destroyed in the storm, the organization will send medical teams and other supplies into devastated areas where help is needed most.
CFI has also provided political advocacy in Washington DC for thousands of suffering Christians in Burma, and has been on the forefront in the effort to resettle many refugees in the United States. To provide a donation for cyclone relief efforts, or to learn more about CFI’s work in Burma, call 1-800-323-2273 or visit www.christianfreedom.org.
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