A NASA satellite photo captures the moment when Cyclone Roanu approached Bangladesh last May. The storm displaced half a million people, damaging homes and livelihoods. Photo: NASA, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response, captured on Terra satellite, via Wikimedia Commons
UMCOR partners with Muslim Aid to assist those who lost homes, livelihoods in storm and flood
By David Tereshchuk*
July 7, 2016 — The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is partnering with Muslim Aid, a Britain-based humanitarian aid organization, to bring relief to survivors of Cyclone Roanu, which struck Bangladesh in May, displacing half a million Bangladeshis from their homes and killing 27.
In the upazila (or county) of Banskhali, south of Dhaka, the capital, on the Indian Ocean, damages were heavy. More than half the households will likely need assistance, after a storm-related tidal surge overwhelmed protective embankments and flooded homes and the fish farms and salt fields that provide livelihoods for local people.
UMCOR is working with Muslim Aid to provide survivors with cash assistance and locally procured hygiene kits. UMCOR has collaborated on other disaster responses with Muslim Aid, which works in 70 countries around the world and has a field office in Bangladesh.
Like UMCOR, Muslim Aid expressly focuses its humanitarian response where need is greatest, regardless of race, religion, or other considerations. Coming from distinct faith traditions, both organizations, nevertheless, share a deep solidarity and compassion—a suffering with—those in need.
Dignity in recovery
Laurie Felder, program manager for UMCOR International Disaster Response, said that after Cyclone Roanu, the hygiene kits will be vital for combatting waterborne diseases that often follow flooding. Paired with the kits, a program of direct, unconditional cash payments will provide further practical aid.
“Cash programming is rapidly becoming a best practice in humanitarian aid,” Felder pointed out, “since it affords beneficiaries the means to be more resilient in the face of disaster. It also underscores their inherent dignity, recognizing that they can make their own choices about how to address their needs.”
Moreover, Felder said, cash programming supports the local economy. “And that’s a very important facet of post-disaster life,” she noted.
In a world of many dramatic man-made crises — including the terror attack this month in Dhaka that left 20 dead — it is easy for Bangladesh’s frequent cyclones and flooding to fall into the category of “forgotten disasters,” said the Rev. Jack Amick, senior director for UMCOR Disaster Response.
“One of the strongest threads in UMCOR’s more than 75-year history is our consistent commitment to alleviate suffering without regard to race or creed — or to the level of publicity a disaster has received,” he emphasized.
“Because of the generosity of donors and the trust they have in UMCOR,” he said, “we have the ability to respond to disasters, even when news of them is slow in coming or overshadowed by other events.”
Your gift to International Disaster Response, Advance #982450, will help people like those in Bangladesh to recover and become more resilient in the face of disaster.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to www.umcor.org.