October 13, 2011

Enormous catastrophe, enormous response in Japan

By |13 October 2011|

“I saw the water rising, and then the huge wave. Then the sea and the land were covered with fire—the whole city was on fire.” The words aren’t out of Revelations. Masato Sakamoto, a resident of Kesennumma on Japan’s east coast, is describing the events of 11 March 2011. “While it was burning, at sunset, the snow started falling.” In a city dozens of kilometres away, 79-year-old Keiko Kikuchi also saw the coastline burning as she scrambled uphill to escape the tsunami. “There was a path up the mountain,” she remembers. “At the end of the path, I had to climb with my hands. I don’t know how I did it.” “We saw the water at our backs. I saw my house filling with water and all the cars floating.” Not far from Keiko’s neighbourhood, Sakae Chida was helping children in her afterschool day care centre flee. They ran up to a [...]

In Ethiopia, intensive care for cattle

By |13 October 2011|

By Val Morgan, Media Officer for SCIAF On some days in the field, I almost despair. It was a red-hot morning and we drove two hours to see a cattle feeding centre and destocking programme in Miyo, a village in southern Ethiopia. The more we drove the drier the landscape became until eventually it was totally barren, just dust and stones. As we arrived at our destination on the top of a hill there were panoramic views all around us. I was told that three years ago this area used to be a vibrant area for farmers and herders with crops and precious grassland on the hills all around me. Now there was nothing. We met our local guide, a young man from our partner, GPDI. He started by telling us about the animal feeding centre which SCIAF (Caritas Scotland) is supporting. It may seem strange to be feeding animals […]

September 28, 2011

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    Keeping a promise: Caritas helps Pakistan’s latest flood victims

Keeping a promise: Caritas helps Pakistan’s latest flood victims

By |28 September 2011|

In summer 2011, heavy monsoon rains inundated southern Pakistan, an area already reeling from massive floods in 2010. Here, a survivor tells her story.

Small businesses back to work in Japan after quake

By |16 September 2011|

[slideshow] By Laura Sheahen in Kesennumma If you’d worked all your life to build up a business, only to see it swept away in minutes by a gargantuan wave, you’d be forgiven for wanting to give up. The aging residents of Japan’s east coast lost decades of labour when a tsunami struck in March 2011. “There were many shopkeepers who thought about quitting,” says Masato Sakamoto, who lives in a coastal city called Kesennumma. The city wasn’t just swallowed by water, it was burned by massive fires that the disaster sparked. In the town centre, the streets are silent. Debris dangles crazily from burned-out rafters. But where others see a ghost town, Masato sees possibilities. Standing in an empty lot, he describes his plans for a two-story shopping plaza that will house dozens of small shops here. In poor countries, Caritas helps people help themselves by providing basic income-earning items like sewing machines or [...]

Japan after the quake

By |12 September 2011|

By Laura Sheahen in Kamaishi When you’re in a tsunami-hit zone, there are no ground floors. At my six-story hotel in Kamaishi, a town on the east coast of Japan, signs point the way to a staircase surrounded by what I assume are “under construction” signs. From the top of the stairs, the third stories of nearby buildings look OK. But at street level, the buildings are just broken frames. Shattered glass, jumbled furniture, and mud-stained scraps of cloth stretch as far as I can see. Thanks to Japanese engineering, many buildings on the coast withstood the earthquake that struck on March 11, 2011. Even with the ground floor gutted, Japanese engineering is holding up my hotel. But nothing could keep the tsunami water from crashing in. Cruel geographical accidents determined what the wave destroyed and what was saved. I walk three blocks on flat land, peering into ruined shops and homes. [...]
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    After tsunami, Caritas Japan and survivors reach new heights

After tsunami, Caritas Japan and survivors reach new heights

By |5 September 2011|

By Laura Sheahen  Sakuma Kaname has taken the word “treehugger” to a whole new level. A high level. When a mammoth tsunami struck his town in Japan in March 2011, Sakuma “was on a hill near a bay,” he says. “I saw the water rising so fast—not just coming in, but rising up.” In minutes, Sakuma was swimming—in a forest. “There was a big tree,” he remembers. “I grabbed on to it. I was eight metres high.” Hanging on to the trunk, almost near the crown of the tall tree, Sakuma held on for several minutes. “Slowly the water went down. As the water went down, I sunk down,” Sakuma says. Sakuma could let go of the tree—noting a nearby stone so he’d remember it—but he couldn’t go home. Water was still engulfing the lowlands near his hill. “On that hill there was a house,” he says. “I broke the window and went in.” [...]

August 3, 2011

Flood Anniversary and the role of Caritas Pakistan

By |3 August 2011|

Amjad Gulzar, National Executive Secretary of Caritas Pakistan The first flood anniversary brings back many memories; both happy and sad. We supported the victims in times of pain and suffering but there were many whom we could not reach in time. Caritas Pakistan, helped generously through its international partners and played vital role of bringing relief and help to thousands who suffered the tragedy. The disaster last year was the worst in the history of the country. Nearly 20 million people were affected by massive floods and heavy rain during July and August 2010. We shall continue our efforts in the rehabilitation phase with a focus on reconstruction, livelihood restoration, provision of health services and safe drinking water as well as psychosocial care support. Caritas Pakistan in collaboration with National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has organised a preparedness course this year. The training involved our Country Disaster Management Team keeping in view the [...]

July 27, 2011

Rebuilding life on Manchar Lake in Pakistan

By |27 July 2011|

The fishing communities who survive on the produce of Manchar Lake in Sindh, Pakistan could never have imagined that the source of their livelihoods would one day destroy everything they owned. The lake is the biggest in Pakistan and has sustained generations of their families, with 20,000 people currently dependent on it for their survival. Yet, last summer, the lake wiped away everything they had worked so hard to build-up. Encouraged by the onrushing rivers and tributaries which feed into it, Manchar Lake rose up and swallowed the villages that surround it. Thankfully for the people who live there, Trócaire (Caritas Ireland) and the Pakistani Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), a nationwide organisation representing the needs of fishing communities, had piloted an emergency preparedness programme in the communities. Fearing the onset of flooding, the programme equipped the communities with loudspeakers, radios and a colour-coded flag system to warn when water was reaching dangerous [...]

Fresh water on tap after the floods in Pakistan

By |27 July 2011|

By Laura Sheahen, Catholic Relief Services  On a day in September 2010, a group of white-bearded men left their mountaintop village in Pakistan and wended their way down 5000 feet of steep, rocky slopes. None of them were young; one used a cane. At the base of the mammoth mountain, a river had burst its banks and destroyed the only bridge leading where they needed to go. The men waited hours to make a precarious journey across the water on a hastily-constructed rope trolley—a tiny open crate that swung and wobbled each of them over the river. After a difficult journey, the men finally reached their destination: a Catholic Relief Services (a US member of Caritas) office in the town of Besham. Getting from their village to Besham was normally a rough, bumpy two hours by car. But during the massive flooding of summer 2010, the journey took far longer. The men [...]

Planting seeds of recovery after Pakistan’s floods

By |27 July 2011|

Ghulam Akber clutches his bag of cotton seed and knows he is holding his future. The seeds are the key to 22-year-old Ghulam rebuilding his life. More than anything, he needs a new house. But to get a new house, he needs money; to get money, he needs a crop; to get a crop, he needs the seeds. One year ago Ghulam could not have imagined he would be so desperate. His village, located close to Manchar Lake in the Sindh province of Pakistan, was a successful farming village. Each of the 600 residents lived in stone houses. They had land and machinery and a plentiful crop almost ready for harvesting. But then the floods came and destroyed everything. "We were very happy before the floods," he says. "We had houses and our crops were ready for harvest. But then the floods came and we lost everything - the houses, the [...]

South Sudan celebrates independence

By |12 July 2011|

Happy Birthday South Sudan

By |10 July 2011|

By Kim Pozniak Just six months after Southern Sudanese voted with an overwhelming majority to secede from the North, the new nation of South Sudan was born. Southern Sudanese turned out in the hundreds of thousands to witness the declaration of Independence of the Republic of South Sudan, and to celebrate a milestone they had been waiting for since a 2005 peace agreement that gave them the right to vote on whether to stay united with the north or form their own nation. People from all over Southern Sudan came to see first-hand the birth of a new nation this July 9. Some said they traveled for days to make it to the capital in time for the celebrations. “I’m very happy today,” said Alfred Gore Dimitri, who had come with his family to witness the celebration in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. “I’ve been celebrating since yesterday.” Also in attendance at the celebration [...]

Long-term solutions in Haiti

By |7 July 2011|

There is a long-term answer to alleviating poverty: helping people build up resilient livelihoods. Secours Catholique, the French national Caritas, worked with local people to improve their food production, supporting the most vulnerable with food rations so they did not fall back on eating seed stocks. Through food-for-work programmes in Les Cayes in southern Haiti, Secours Catholique helped communities to build flood defences. Now, extreme weather will not carry off their crops, as it has done in other years. A sustainable and safer future has also been the focus in rebuilding houses. “It’s all different now.We are a lot more careful when we build,” said LucienWilner, a carpenter trained and employed by Cordaid, the Caritas member from the Netherlands. “Before the earthquake we did not build in this way, but now we won’t get so many people dying.” Lucien is part of a programme to tackle Haiti’s 50 percent unemployment [...]

Bringing business back to Haiti

By |7 July 2011|

Other Caritas programmes in Haiti are tackling the longer-term problem of the poverty trap while at the same time helping people get back on their feet after the tragedy of January 2010. Caritas Slovakia noticed that local businesswomen were struggling to keep their enterprises afloat after the earthquake. So many Haitians were hard up they couldn’t afford to buy things like clothes in the markets so the women stallholders were about to go bust. Caritas Slovakia launched a micro-finance programme, “Mothers of the Market”, in June, starting with 20 women. The women were given business training to complement the practical experience they already had and a one-off grant of $500. Another 30 women began training in October. One of them is Daphney Nozan, a 26-year-old single mother with a seven-year-old daughter. Daphne’s clothes stall was failing but began to prosper again after the training: she made a clever switch to [...]

Chile overcomes massive quake and tsunami

By |7 July 2011|

It was the worst disaster Chile had suffered in half a century, not only a strong earthquake but a tsunami too. Two million people were affected. Caritas’s emergency response began immediately: its strong local networks helping it reach the most vulnerable people in the most remote areas, often more rapidly than the government could.

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