Hope glimmers after Iran quake

Faith-based response has brought help and hope to Iran as the nation faces a long recovery.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | January 25, 2004

Though Iran faces a long recovery after its devastating Dec. 26 earthquake, faith-based response has already brought help and hope to many.

An airlift of medical supplies and hygiene kits sent by Church World Service (CWS) and its partners arrived in Iran. The medicines, sent in cooperation with CWS partner Interchurch Medical Assistance will serve some 100,000 people, and the hygiene kits will help another 5,000 people affected by the quake that killed some 40,000 people.

A variety of CWS partners helped fund the airlift. A key CWS partner has been the Middle East Council of Churches, which has personnel on the ground still assessing damages and helping map a long-term recovery plan. Shortly after the quake struck, CWS was able to send an emergency grant to MECC's Ecumenical Relief Service to help purchase and distribute emergency shelter assistance.

Nearly 100,000 people living in Bam and its surrounding villages are in need of basic shelter, food and medicine. Thousands are living on the street, in cars and in tents, warming themselves with outdoor fires.

Families are still painfully searching their homes for important documents and salvaging for possessions.

MECC is also a member of Action by Churches Together, a global coalition of church-based relief and response agencies.

Both MECC and CWS have been working closely with the Iranian Red Crescent and with Iranian government officials.

The quake measured 6.7 on the Richter scale and lasted for 13 seconds. The earthquake leveled much of Bam because the historic city's mud-brick structures could not withstand the quake's magnitude. Bam once prided itself on its relative stability and economic prosperity.

Response officials estimate Iran's recovery will take up to seven years.

CWS reported that a major focus of faith-based groups would be on long-term rehabilitation and construction support.

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