Chile quake response reaches half a million people
By Andreas Lexer, Caritas Communications Officer in Chile
Volunteers gather Caritas food donations for a door to door food distribution in the Santa Clara township in Talcahuano. Talcahuano, Chile was devastated by the February 27th, 2010 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
The first phase of the Caritas emergency response following the 27 February earthquake has been successful in meeting the needs of the people.
Two week after the quake, 1.600 tons of food have been distributed to 104,000 families. That is about 500,000 people. 250 tonnes of other goods, such as tents, mattresses and hygiene kits and about 3,500 metres of tarps were given out.
“Our logistics worked tremendously”, says Juan Precht, Emergency Relief Coordinator of Caritas Chile. “Everything was coordinated here in Santiago, sent to the regions and then to the parishes who handed out everything to the beneficiaries.”
One of the first decisions that Caritas Chile took was getting rid of the regional names of Caritas. So there is no Caritas Santiago, Caritas Concepcion or Caritas Maule anymore, but only Caritas.
“We did that in order to take in all the Caritas organisations in the country, be they small or big, and work under a common umbrella,” he said.
Caritas also works together with other international organisations such as the United Nations.
“They see us work in Haiti and know we are doing a great job there”, Juan Precht states. “And because they know that our system works and we have got a huge moral support from all the Caritas organisations worldwide they trust us and work together with us.”
However, it is early days still in getting the job done. People are about to become very poor in Chile. They will need long term help.
“One thing which is missing is the international understanding that what happened here in Chile was not just earthquake and tsunamis”, says Juan Precht. “We want people to know that this could turn into a social catastrophe very soon.”
Fishermen do not have any fish in the sea after the tsunamis. On the countryside there is hardly any water. Crops are ready to be harvested in only a few week and are drying out.
More than 400 schools all over the country have had to close. Children of poor families, who get food two to three times a day in public schools, stay hungry now. People are very traumatised due to this situation and very worried about their future.
“Physical reconstruction of the infrastructure will not be enough”, says Juan Precht. “We need social reconstruction and a re-establishment of the social network.”
Caritas is working to provide psychological monitoring for the most vulnerable. A contract between Caritas and a local university has already been signed. It will guarantee such monitoring on a small scale with certified psychologists for free.
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