Putting a roof over the heads of Chile’s quake survivors

By |31 March 2010|

By Andreas Lexer, Caritas Communications Officer in Chile

Iloca used to be a beautiful little village everybody went to in the summer, about 100 km away from the city of Talca.

The blue, red and yellow coloured houses built on poles were close to the shore, the river ran in to the sea just in front of the village and a sand dune kept the Pacific Ocean well away. On Saturday, February 27th, everything changed.

After the 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit Chile at 3.34 in the morning people were wide awake.

“We immediately knew we had to leave”, says Mavet Rivera, who ran a little fish store close to the Beach. So she took her three sons, jumped into the next car and went up the hill. Then the sea rolled in.

Three waves washed away Iloca. “The radio was telling us that there would not be a Tsunami, when we actually saw it,” […]

Working Together to Save Lives in Darfur

By |22 December 2009|

Christian Churches from all over the world are working together to save the lives of people affected by conflict in Darfur.

A joint programme involving ACT (Action by Churches Together), a global alliance of churches and related agencies working in the field of humanitarian relief, and Caritas Internationalis has been providing essential life-saving services such as clean water, food and health care to 300,000 people living in camps, and surrounding villages, in South and West Darfur.

Nyika Musiyazwiriyo, the outgoing Head of Programmes for the Joint ACT/Caritas Programme in Darfur, says being able to work together has meant the ACT/Caritas Programme has become one of the biggest players among UN and other humanitarian actors in the conflict-affected region of Sudan.

“One of our key strengths is being able to draw on each others’ experiences, knowledge, and resources” Nyika explains.

As such, the Programme has been able to provide clean drinking water to nearly […]

Rebuilding: Hurricane Survivors Move on With Caritas Help

By |2 December 2009|

Rolande Jean’s home sits a few feet from the edge of the Caribbean Sea, between the small town of Nippes, Haiti and, in September 2008, directly in the path of Hurricane Ike. When the Category 4 storm roared ashore, Jean huddled with her husband and children in their small wooden house, and bore the brunt of the storm’s fury.

“The house was very badly damaged,” Jean said. “The river flooded the house, and the roof was torn completely off. We were in the house when it happened.”

Forced from their home, the family took shelter with a neighbor across the street on higher ground, above the floodwaters left in the wake of the storm. Coming as it did on the heels of Hurricanes Gustav and Hanna, which wreaked havoc across Haiti, Ike was the last straw for many in this impoverished nation. In Nippes alone, nearly 1,400 homes were damaged or […]

Haiti 2009: Back in Class

By |2 December 2009|

Soft spoken and demure, Junor Hesgazons leans intently into his schoolwork, his eyes casting constantly to the chalkboard as the day’s lesson takes shape. His white collared shirt neatly creased despite the humidity of southern Haiti, Hesgazons looks every bit the engineer he hopes one day to be.

“I like to study engineering. I like mathematics and physics,” Hesgazons said. “I would like to build roads and bridges as a civil engineer.”

But for Hesgazons, that journey thus far has been a hard one. Growing up poor near the city of Les Cayes, Hesgazons has struggled throughout his life to stay in school. For he and his family, as with many across Haiti, the $70 yearly school fees are a major burden.

“Before, a family friend helped me [with fees], but he cannot afford to help me anymore,” Hesgazons said.

When Hurricane Ike came ashore in September 2008, those difficulties were compounded. Across […]

Imagine compassion in a crisis: More than bread alone

By |2 December 2009|

The crisis in Darfur worsened, with 290,000 people fleeing their homes during the first nine months of 2008. Many people fled to Chad and the Central African Republic.

Caritas is part of one of the biggest programmes in south and west Darfur, helping 250,000 people. Caritas covers basic needs, including access to clean water, sanitary facilities and healthcare, and help to people to grow food.

The rate of trauma is very high. Katherine Gicuku Ireri, is a field coordinator in the town of Nyala. We asked her about her work in the Peacebuilding, Protection and Psychosocial programme.

What are the main aims of the Peacebuilding, Protection and Psychosocial (PPP) sector in the Caritas programme?

K: To take care of the complete needs of the people, including psychological, protection and peaceful coexistence needs. A lesson learnt from recent emergencies including Kosovo and Rwanda is the importance of taking care of the wide ranging needs, which […]

Imagine compassion in a crisis: Preparing for next time

By |2 December 2009|

Life since the 2007 Mexico floods has been a learning curve for Hugo Gutierrez. He said Caritas Tabasco’s small team was almost overwhelmed when the disaster happened. After the floods Mr Gutierrez did emergency response training to ensure that if the floods ever came again, people would be better protected.

“We learned about how to organise and divide tasks, how to improve assistance and how to develop emergency plans,” said Mr Gutierrez. The training covered many aspects of emergency response including evacuation drills, disaster prevention and minimum standards for disaster response.

Mr Gutierrez considers the training to have been invaluable as it helped Caritas Tabasco identify strengths and weaknesses and map the risks for future disasters. The training means that Caritas is better prepared to face whatever nature throws at it.

“Now people can really count on us,” said Mr Gutierrez.

Remembering the Asia tsunami

By |3 September 2009|

An earthquake in the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 triggered a tsunami that devastated the coasts of Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka Some 300,000 people were killed in a matter of hours.

Haiti stuck in Groundhog Day

By |3 September 2009|

When was Haiti last in the news? You’ll probably have to wrack your brains before remembering that it last made the headlines in September 2008 when a series of tropical storms caused massive flooding and mudslides.

Five months later, NGOs are wrapping up their emergency programmes and pulling out. No news on Haiti and the NGOs are going, so everything must be fine. Not quite.

“People still aren’t in safe housing,” says William Canny, Country Representative for Caritas member Catholic Relief Services (CRS). “Buildings are still covered in mud. And what’s more, some of the issues that led to the mudslides haven’t been dealt with.”

Haiti is considered the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. With its few resources it has to combat problems such as massive social inequalities, episodes of social unrest, hunger, lack of development and environmental degradation.

On top of this, it lies in the Caribbean’s hurricane path and every […]

Myanmar on Cyclone Nargis Anniversary

By |3 September 2009|

One year on from Cylcone Nargis which took the lives of more than 140,000people and left more than two million people without homes, the Caritas network continues to bring dignity to those affected.

Caritas has supplied over 100,000 people with basic food staples, around 40,000 people with non food items such as blankets and mosquito nets and thousands of other families with household hygiene and sanitation kits.

Yangon’s Archbishop Charles Bo, leading the local response, says the Church’s greatest achievement has been its ability to provide support to the most vulnerable people affected by the cyclone.

“Our intervention is targeted to the villages and places neglected by others. Our flexibility has been our strength.”

Archbishop Bo, thanked the world and particularly the Catholic community who have given so generously to support the people of Myanmar (Burma) in their moment of need but impelled them not to forget those affected over the following years […]

Next steps in healing Congo

By |2 September 2009|

Pots, plates, cutlery, soap, shirts, blankets….the list of things you need if you’re forced to leave your home and possessions behind is endless.

These are just some of the items Caritas has been providing over the past six months to the people who have fled their homes due to fighting between the Government and rebels in Congo’s troubled eastern region.

“It’s intolerable that you have one and a half million people who haven’t got a home, aren’t protected, are exposed to sexual violence, haven’t got medicine or clothes…all this in a country which is rich,” says Dr Miteyo, national director of Caritas Congo. “It’s this contradiction which pulls at my heartstrings.”

The breadth and depth of the crisis is hitting the people of Congo hard on every level. They not only have lost their homes and possessions, but their jobs are left behind, their fields go unplanted, their children risk being recruited […]

Planning for monsoons in Sri Lanka

By |30 August 2009|

The monsoon season will be arriving in Sri Lanka shortly. No one knows how powerful the winds and rains will be, but one thing is certain – it’s best to not be living in a tent when they arrive.

Tens of thousands of people are still living in temporary shelters following the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war in May last year and over 350,000 people are without homes in general.

“About 60-70,000 people are still in camps,” says Fr George Sigamoney, director of Caritas Sri Lanka, on a visit to Caritas Internationalis in Rome. “They haven’t gone back home because their lands haven’t been cleared of landmines.”

“People who are getting back to their lands sometimes still don’t have proper shelter, just a covering and poles – and it’s not easy to put up a house with that,” he says.

People who are being resettled are mainly in the north, where the […]

Peru after the earthquake

By |21 November 2008|

In the course of a few minutes, Peru’s massive 2007 earthquake destroyed everything that some communities had spent years building.Houses collapsed, roads crumbled and essentials such as food and drinking water were suddenly hard to come by for many of the 650,000 people affected.

Caritas launched an emergency appeal in the aftermath of the earthquake. Over the following months, generous donors from around the world gave over US$10 million to help people rebuild their communities and lives in central Peru.

Initially, Caritas focused on helping 55,000 families by providing them with water, food and shelter, blankets and cooking and hygiene kits.

The most vulnerable victims of the earthquake were targeted: children under five, senior citizens, people who were incapacitated and women who were heads of households.

Caritas helped the sick and injured  by providing over 40 metric tons of medical aid and helped people get to hospital to receive treatment.

As many people didn’t […]

Aid against the odds in Darfur

By |3 November 2008|

This is some of what Caritas and its partners have done in Darfur from January to March 2008:

Helped 250,000 people
Given household items to 12,700 who’re without homes
Drilled 18 boreholes and got 106 handpumps working
Treated 50,000 illnesses
Fed nearly 9000 pregnant women, new mothers, babies and toddlers
Set up eight sports teams for peace

It’s just a fraction of the hard work carried out in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, all against a backdrop of danger to aid workers and the people they’re trying to help.

The work covers helping those who’ve lost their homes in the conflict – with that number growing all the time.

It also means working in existing camps to provide clean water and sanitation, health and nutrition, counselling, education, and getting agriculture going again.

In February and March, 125 midwives and traditional birth attendants from across South and West Darfur attended a five-day refresher training course funded by Caritas partners. The […]

Lives saved in Myanmar

By |3 November 2008|

Caritas says that 80,000 people have received some form of assistance through its relief operations following the deadly cyclone that hit Myanmar 2-3 May, 2008.

Over 7 million people lived in the area affected by Cyclone Nargis.  The latest figures put the death toll at 84,537 people, with the number of missing at 53,836 people.  Approximately 2.4 million people were directly affected by the cyclone. At least 1.4 million people lost their homes.

Caritas Internationalis is coordinating relief efforts of its 162 member organisations. Caritas has reached survivors of the storm in Yangon, Pathein, Bogale, Amar and Dedaya with food, clothing, bedding, and provided access to clean water and sanitation.

At least 5000 people have received 50kg bags or rice and 8,500 mosquito nets have been been handed out among other items.

“With the ensured the support of all of you, we are resolute in making the lives of the people more dignified […]

ACT/Caritas prepare for the coming rains

By |3 November 2008|

By Emad Eldin Ali, with contribution from Catherine Dennis

Life in Darfur can be harsh at the best of times, but during the rainy season it can be particularly challenging. Many families who have lost their homes because of the conflict are now living in makeshift mud huts and straw shelters.

Ensuring people have shelter, medicine and reserve food is also a challenge for the staff of ACT/Caritas. The June to September rainy season can make road transport difficult, so it’s important to prepare things well in advance.

In Mershing, South Darfur, staff have already delivered essential household items to hundreds of internally displaced families living in camps.

In Teigy camp, a large group of mostly women and children gather at sunrise at their community centre to receive items delivered by ACT/Caritas.

“I am happy because the household things from last time are now damaged”, said Fatima, who has been living in Teigy camp […]

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