UMCOR Directors Approve Four New International Development Programs
Pakistan, Sudan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia Initiatives Receive $7.6 Million
NEW YORK, NY, April 7- Earthquake resistant housing for two villages is among the humanitarian initiatives under way in the Kashmir region that straddles the mountainous borders of Pakistan and India. The board of directors of United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), meeting in Stamford, Conn., April 4, approved a $1.5 million grant to a partner agency, International Blue Crescent (IBC), to rebuild homes in two remote villages. The total effort includes 360 houses, school and psycho-social support.
In the days following the 7.6 magnitude earthquake in October 2005, UMCOR and IBC collaborated on delivering emergency food and shelter to 3,000 people suffering from injuries and loss of homes. With additional UMCOR funding IBC has been addressing other needs such as winterized temporary shelters, latrines, children's centers and health clinics in four mountain villages. In Pakistan alone, some 4 million people suffered some consequence of the quake, and over 50,000 died.
The IBC-UMCOR partnership began in relief efforts for the 1999 Turkey earthquake. The two agencies also worked together in the Bam earthquake and have conducted several post-tsunami programs in Indonesia.
Board members approved several other international initiatives. Here are highlights.
SudanUMCOR workers in Sudan are providing humanitarian assistance in South Darfur. The board of directors approved a $330,000 grant to extend operations there for a second year. Programs include child protection, camp management, micro-credit, health, skills training for young adults, and agriculture. Sudan is the largest country on the African continent. For the past 20 years Sudan has experienced military and civil turmoil.
Board members authorized $4,431,866 for recovery work by the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka. The church is using a holistic approach for recovery, not only building homes for 498 Muslim, Hindu and Christian families but also providing infrastructure such as roads, wells, and a ferry system, all destroyed in the 2004 earthquake and tsunami. More than a million were displaced, and some 38,000 lost their lives in Sri Lanka alone.
In a country torn by chronic war, the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka is one of the few organizations that can move freely among rival factions. Youth and children from all sides of the conflict have lost their schools, and women continue to experience the trauma of having lost their families or homes. Trusted because of its nonsectarian approach to aid, the church offers humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable survivors-children, single women, the elderly, and the disabled. As is the normal process in all UMCOR programs, funds will be released in segments, based on progress reports and periodic internal and external audits.
In a second tsunami funding decision, the board approved $1,411,554 for a memorial city park in Banda Aceh. The city, on the northernmost tip of Sumatra, was among the most severely affected by the deadly earthquake and tsunami. The park, once the venue for public celebrations and family outings, today is a moonscape. Human remains were discovered there; foliage and roads that led to the grounds were torn away by moving waters. UMCOR's implementing partner is the Methodist Church of Indonesia.
The park is one of several development initiatives across Indonesia. UMCOR workers are building some 372 houses based on model homes completed in 2005. The houses are part of an integrated community rehabilitation that includes wells, road repair, and drainage system upgrades.
UMCOR has implemented similar public works programs in the past, notably at Mostar, the southern capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where agency workers built a temporary suspension bridge to reconnect the two sides of the city split by ethnic conflict in the 1990s. The bridge became a symbol of the fragile peace among three warring factions. UMCOR staff expressed the hope that, for the world's largest Muslim country, the park in Banda Aceh would fulfill a similar symbolic function.
With board approval earlier in 2006, UMCOR workers in Banda Aceh are also readying a site for construction of a school and are upgrading two temporary location centers in Aceh Besar. A temporary location center is a place where families can live while awaiting their new homes.
Supporting both Indonesia and Sri Lanka projects are funds from UMCOR Advance #274305, South Asia Emergency. United Methodists responded to appeals for the tsunami with over $42 million in cash gifts-a record sum topped only recently with the church's response to Hurricane Katrina and other deadly storms of 2005.