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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Field Report: Hope is on the horizon!

There’s a lot to write and I don’t know where to begin. Whatever I write, it is not enough to express this situation.

Perhaps I should start by letting you know that the government may be easing its grip on supplies coming into the country. Several countries and agencies have received clearance for their cargo planes of supplies to come into the country in the next few days.

The only restriction being placed on distribution of some of those supplies is that someone from the government must accompany those doing the distribution. Depending on the availability of government staff to accompany distribution teams, there may be more supplies flowing to more people soon.

We are also hearing that the most successful way to distribute supplies to the neediest areas is to go by boat. One of the HOPE International Development Agency staff came back last night from the area where the medical and relief teams have been operating. She is resupplying and, along with two of our other staff, will head back with more medical supplies and water treatment and rainwater harvesting supplies.

We have had really good cooperation with other international agencies and we’re all working hard to get support to the survivors.

Apparently there is a new form of greeting among cyclone survivors in the Delta. When they see someone they recognize, the first question they ask each other is, “How many family members did you lose?”

What a stark statement of the magnitude of this tragedy! But last night we also started hearing some amazing survival stories. We learned of a seven year old child who was found still alive, three or four miles from his village. He had been swept away during the storm and badly injured – he was hit in the head by a board with two nails in it, and the nails went into his skull. He was brought to the medical team, and they were able to do surgery to remove the board and nails and treat infection. The child seemed to be recovering well after the surgery.

One of the most common injuries is a loss of all the skin on certain spots on the arms and across the torso and elsewhere. This occurred because the survivors clung to coconut trees or other rough places for 6-8 hours while the worst of the winds, tide surges and flooding occurred during the storm. Imagine clinging to something so precarious for so many hours, alone in the dark, with the wind and water dragging at you and making it hard to hang on, all the while fearing or knowing that other members of your family have been swept away.

The medical teams also report that they are having to use sedation in a lot of cases where people are completely distraught or are no longer in their right minds after the huge losses of kin and community. Injuries to the psyche are at least as prevalent as physical ones.

We have been buoyed by the news of so many of you who have a part of your heart now living in Myanmar and are working to help provide much-needed aid and other types of support.

Continue to pray for the people!

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