CWS Sends $900,000 in Initial Supplies to Aid in Tsunami Relief

International humanitarian agency Church World Service (CWS) announced today that it is expediting more than $900,000 in initial relief supplies and deploying emergency assistance teams to aid in recovery efforts in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, following Sunday’s devastating earthquakes and tsunami that have killed nearly 81,000 people so far in South Asia and areas of coastal East Africa.

Rick Augsburger, Director of Emergency Response Programs for Church World Service, said the New York-based agency has issued a U.S.-wide fundraising appeal for survivors of the disaster. “We’ve already deployed rapid response teams in the region and issued initial rapid response grants for relief efforts our partners are undertaking in concert with us in Indonesia and India," Augsburger said.

Supported in part by 36 denominations in the U.S., Church World Service reported that it is implementing its initial emergency assistance effort with the support of the United Church of Christ (UCC); Disciples of Christ--Week of Compassion; United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR); International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC); Reformed Church of America (RCA); and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA).

With millions of people are homeless across the region, Augsburger stated “One of the biggest threats we face now is that diseases from polluted drinking water, dead bodies and lack of sanitation may pose a health disaster as great as the earthquakes and tsunami."
 
On Tuesday CWS began airlifting emergency shelter and hygiene materials and has has expedited 500 family shelter kits from its regional warehouse in Pakistan to Sri Lanka, at the request of the National Council of Churches of Sri Lanka (NCCL).  The shelter kit shipment, valued at $54,000, each contains a family tent, a ground sheet and a plastic tarp. A CWS response team from Pakistan will assist the NCCL in distribution and further emergency assessment.

In addition, CWS is sending 75 Emergency Medicine boxes to Sri Lanka, valued at $270,000, which will provide basic medicines and antibiotics to 75,000 persons for a period of three months. Meanwhile, 9,000 CWS Gift of the Heart Health Kits, with a total value of $108,000, are also being sent to Sri Lanka. A Church World Service response team from Pakistan will assist the NCCL in distribution of the supplies and further emergency assessment in Sri Lanka.

"Our Indonesia office is also deploying an emergency assistance team to aid in recovery efforts in Aceh, Indonesia," Augsburger said. "And yesterday we expedited sending 5,000 light weight blankets and 35,000 Gift of the Heart Health Kits to Indonesia for distribution in Aceh.” The shipment was valued at $486,750.

“This is just our initial support,” the director said.

“Certainly the initial, emergency recovery stages for a crisis of this magnitude require enormous support from the international community,” Augsburger added.  “Yet it’s vital to remember that full recovery from this disaster will require significant resources over an extended period. Further support and assistance from Church World Service will be forthcoming.”

In Indonesia's Aceh province--where UN officials say the death toll might reach between 50,000 and 80,000--Augsburger said complicating factors could be that Aceh has become increasingly isolated from the world due a clampdown by the Indonesian government in an effort to control fighting between government soldiers and separatist rebels. Access by international relief and development agencies has been limited during the past year.

Meanwhile in India, CWS is providing financial support for regional response by its long-time partner Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA). Two CASA teams of 15 people each were deployed to affected coastal areas on Monday to assess damages and needs.

CWS may also support other affected areas and anticipates updating its initial financial appeal as recovery actions expand.

Augsburger urged U.S. citizens to do what they can. “This country can’t be viewed as ‘stingy’ in the face of such a catastrophe," Augsburger said.

"U.N. Undersecretary Jan Egeland has said this disaster could be one of history’s costliest,” Augsburger added, “We simply have to help.”

To support CWS recovery efforts in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India contributions may be sent to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN, 46515; by calling: (800)-297-1516 ext. 222; or by going the Church World Service website at www.churchworldservice.org

CWS has requested that contributions be designated for emergency # 6970 SOUTHERN ASIA EARTHQUAKE-TIDAL WAVE EMERGENCY.