By Aaron Weaver
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is partnering with disaster-relief agencies around the world to provide emergency support to the victims of Tropical Cyclone Pam in the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu.
CBF sent an initial $5,000 to Asia Pacific Baptist Aid, which is coordinating the Baptist response efforts in Vanuatu. The Decatur, Ga.,-based CBF continues to work with Baptist World Aid, the development-and-relief arm of the Baptist World Alliance, and its partners in the region to determine the required emergency response as well as the long-term recovery and rehabilitation needs.
News reports indicate that at least 24 people were killed by the cyclone and more than 3,300 have been displaced across the cluster of more than 80 islands with an estimated population of 270,000 located 1,250 miles northeast of Brisbane, Australia.
Officials expect those totals to rise as relief agencies receive reports from some of the more remote islands of Vanuatu, which is considered one of the world’s poorest nations.
Early aerial and ground views of the area have shown widespread devastation, including the flattening of homes, community buildings, hospitals, schools and churches. Survivors are preparing for a lack of food in the coming months due to the destruction of crops in Vanuatu, whose residents rely largely on subsistence farming. On Thursday officials said the country’s food supplies may run out in just a week.
David Harding, CBF’s international disaster response coordinator, emphasized the importance of Baptists coming together to aid the people of Vanuatu.
“Individual lives have been thrown into chaos and pain, bringing a sense of hopelessness and helplessness until friends start showing up to say they care and begin removing the debris in the short-term and rebuilding the community in the long-term,” Harding said. “CBF is one of those friends through the Baptist network of partners in the Asia Pacific region.”
Jim Smith, director of field ministries for CBF, expressed his gratefulness for partnership with the Asia Pacific Baptist Fellowship and hope that the victims will be comforted in the aftermath of the cyclone.
“The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is grateful to be able to respond in cooperation with the disaster-response team of the Asia Pacific Baptist Fellowship,” Smith said. “This allows us to respond where we have no feet on the ground. The destruction left behind is beyond comprehension, and we hope the people of Vanuatu can be comforted and assisted in their efforts to recover.”
— With reporting by the Baptist World Alliance