The Asian tsunami in late 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. in 2005 generated $110 million in donations for UMCOR’s response. But that level of funding has changed, said Roland Fernandes, top executive for Global Ministries and UMCOR.
“There’s been a decline in income, that’s one reality we’ve got to face,” he said during the Oct. 28 meeting, where UMCOR directors approved $1.15 million in new grants and authorized $6.4 million in disbursements.
In the U.S., the largest disaster response grant was $370,000 to the Alabama-West Florida Conference for its response to the damage left by Hurricane Sally in September.
As with many U.S. disasters, Early Response Teams were the first outside volunteers to assist with United Methodist relief work in Alabama-West Florida. The South Carolina Conference, for example, sent an ERT team each week from Sept. 21-25 and Sept. 28-Oct. 2.
The project using the UMCOR grant will focus on unmet home repair needs in rural Marlow, an unincorporated community near Fish River, Alabama, in south Baldwin County, which has a large Hispanic population. In total, 37 households will receive reconstruction assistance.
United Methodist churches near Marlow have supported the initial hurricane response by providing food, toiletries and cleaning supplies and serving more than 300 hot meals daily.
However, the combined effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the continuing long-term recovery of Hurricane Michael, widespread damage from Sally “and the unprecedented number of disasters” means that contractors will be hired to complete much of the repair and rebuilding work.
The conference does hope to recruit and safely house volunteer teams in an attempt to assist an additional 26 households.
A total of $180,978 was approved for large international disaster response grants, including $81,605 to the Davao Episcopal Area disaster management office to mitigate the risk of flooding. The constructing of four pedestrian bridges will allow residents of Barangay Lamlahakby in Mindanao, Philippines, to safely evacuate and remain connected to essential services.
That pedestrian bridge project is an example of the type of international mitigation programing that UMCOR hopes to expand in 2021, said Katie Hills Uzoka, senior manager for international disaster response.
Overall, her unit awarded 35 grants in 16 countries this year, totaling more than $2.9 million, and closing 21 completed projects, she said. “A majority of our responses have been to cyclones and flooding,” she added.
Directors approved $607,040 in Global Health grants in Africa for Imagine No Malaria, maternal and child health and the strengthening of United Methodist health systems.