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Northwest Relief Agencies Partner to Lead Cyclone Response in Myanmar

by Barbara Agnew | Dec 05, 2013

(PORTLAND, ORE. & SEATTLE, WASH. - June 9, 2008) Portland-based Medical Teams International and Seattle-based World Concern are working together to help thousands of Myanmar families struggling to find food, shelter and medical help. Despite challenges, World Concern and Medical Teams International are reaching the most vulnerable people, including children and the elderly, with the help of in-country partners, which have been distributing food, plastic tarps, personal hygiene items and other necessities and sending mobile medical care units and trauma counselors to the hardest hit areas.

World Concern has been working in Myanmar since 1995 and has a permanent team there, including about six expatriates and 200 Myanmar citizens. As one of the few agencies with a long-term presence, it expects within the coming week to be able to receive and distribute large amounts of donations from international agencies that are not able to work in Myanmar, but have shipments ready to import. These supplies will help World Concern and Medical Teams International to reach nearly 100,000 people.

Medical Teams International and World Concern have joined efforts in many of the world’s most challenging relief situations, including Afghanistan after 9/11, Darfur, Sudan, and Chad. In Myanmar, Medical Teams International will be leading the health sector of the relief effort with World Concern. At present, they are facilitating the support of medical teams, essential drug supply, dead body disposal and plans for trauma recovery support. Together, the agencies are taking a lead role in providing training, technical assistance and resources to more than 50 in-country NGO’s and volunteer organizations.

“One of the most urgent and heart-rending needs is to care for the dead,” said World Concern Relief Director Merry Fitzpatrick. “While our need to focus on the living is urgent, survivors are immensely stressed by the daily sight of the uncollected dead. Members on our team have experience with collecting and properly disposing of large numbers of human bodies with dignity. It is a sad and gruesome job, but one the survivors themselves have given a priority, so we are respecting that desire.” The removal of dead bodies in some areas is impeding mental health recovery.

In addition to providing immediate relief supplies and health care, World Concern and Medical Teams International are working with families to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. Many farmers and fishermen lost nearly everything in the cyclone. World Concern and Medical Teams International plan to assist families by providing irrigation systems, livestock, clean water, boats, nets and other needed training and supplies that will help families rebuild through the years to come.