Strained NGOs 'Urgently' Ask Public to Support Relief Efforts

Christian humanitarian agencies are calling on their donors and the general public for increased support as they respond to the rolling disasters that have ravaged parts of the Asia Pacific region.

"We are urgently asking for help," reported the Rev. John L. McCullough, executive director of Church World Service. "There's never a good time for one, or two or four disasters, but this year's crises, and the latest Pacific island emergencies, are coming at a really bad time."

Over the past week, international relief groups such as World Vision and Catholic Relief Services have had their hands full with disasters including quake-triggered tsunami that hit American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga on Tuesday; and Typhoon Ketsana, which flooded more than 80 percent of the Philippines' capital city of Manila last Saturday and severely damaged more than 150,000 homes in Vietnam's Quang Nam province two days later.

While the immediate focus is on rescue efforts and emergency relief, the relief groups are already planning for the long-term reconstruction vital to recovery efforts.

Many of the charities and responders, however, are already stretched thin because of the economy and ongoing work in other countries, such as Kenya, where some 12 million are suffering thirst, hunger, famine and death amid a critical food crisis and water shortages. And with numerous emergencies happening at once, it's "a triple whammy," as McCullough put it.

"CWS asks that people do what they can," he stated. "We know from the past that by joining together we can make a difference."

World Vision Philippines advocacy director Minnie Portales similarly acknowledged how the scale of this past week's devastation is putting a strain on everyone.

For Manila alone, World Vision is globally attempting to raise $2 million to enable a comprehensive response.

 "The important thing is to show people that they are not forgotten by getting even small amounts of aid out," she said.

On Saturday, a second storm slammed into northern Philippines, ripping off roofs, toppling power pylons and swelling rivers while killing at least two people.

"The damage is quite heavy," Cagayan police Chief Roberto Damian told ABC-CBN television after Typhoon Parma made landfall.

According to reports, the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela were hardest hit by the powerful winds and drenching rain of Typhoon Parma, which is now headed in the direction of Taiwan.

Taiwan has issued a storm warning and began moving people out of villages in the southern county of Kaohsiung, which lost around 700 people when a typhoon had hit in August.

Meanwhile, another typhoon, Melor, has been churning 1,600 miles east of the Philippine Sea, threatening the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Typhoons typically develop above the warm tropical seas of the Pacific about 10 degrees north of the equator, feeding on the heat released from rising moist air.

Some groups have blamed the increasing intensity of the typhoons on the effects of global warming, prompting Asian countries such as the Philippines to urge rich nations to toughen emissions cuts.

"These countries [in Southeast Asia] in a way are the canary in the mine, they're the ones that will be confronted by the impacts of climate change if we fail to reach an agreement in Copenhagen," U.N. Climate Chief Yvo de Boer told Agence France Presse.

Delegates from 192 countries are currently meeting in Bangkok to produce the draft text of a global warming treaty that world leaders aim to sign in Copenhagen in December.

The Sept. 28-Oct.9 gathering is the next to the last negotiating session before COP 15 in Copenhagen.