NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Five days after a cyclone's widespread devastation in Myanmar, the first two planeloads of United Nations relief supplies landed in the capital, Yangon, April 8. Observers fear the death toll could rise from 23,000 to more than 100,000 because safe supplies of drinking water and food are not available to large numbers of people.
Visas for relief workers, however, still have not been approved by the country's military government.
A Southern Baptist relief effort is focusing on establishing reliable communications with partners in Myanmar, said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist international relief and development organization.
Cyclone Nargis wiped out much of Myanmar's communications networks and has made it difficult even for the country's own relief system to ascertain the extent of the damage. In addition to food and clean water, aid organizations expect that the most urgent needs will include plastic sheeting, water purification tablets, mosquito nets and emergency health kits.
The death toll stands at 22,980, with another 42,119 people missing, according to Myanmar's state media. Up to 1 million people are homeless. Relief organizations are concerned about outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and illnesses such as diarrhea that often occur in the wake of natural disasters because of dirty water and poor sanitation.
"Our priority is now to establish reliable communication with partners in Myanmar," Palmer said. "We hope to have some things in place communications-wise in a few days. From all our sources, we understand other organizations are also experiencing difficulty in responding." Read More