August 27, 2010

Six months after Chile quake

By |27 August 2010|

Chile is getting back on its feet six months after the 27 February earthquake left millions without homes and in need of aid. Caritas responded immediately, providing food, shelter, warm clothing and compassion, reaching over a million people. Now Caritas is switching to reconstruction and rehabilitation. But Lorenzo Figueroa, Secretary General of Caritas Chile, says there is an urgent need for a national plan from the government as winter approaches. Interview with Lorenzo Figueroa, Secretary General of Caritas Chile What have been the greatest challenges?  The earthquake affected a massive area, from Valparaíso to Araucania, in which almost 13 million people live. Over two million people were directly affected. It was difficult to assess the impact and identify the victims. Coupled with this, information wasn’t coming through from the government. Caritas initially responded by providing people with water, food, clothes, shelter, hygiene goods, but also spiritual support. We’ve reached 210,000 of the most vulnerable [...]

June 23, 2010

Safety from the storm in Bangladesh

By |23 June 2010|

Caritas Bangladesh builds shelters that offer protection when cyclones hit. They work with villagers to make sure that everyone knows about evacuation plans and that there is enough food to last through the storms. Tanjibul Hussain Sujon is a community volunteer in Bangladesh. He said, “There is a group of us who keep in touch by radio.We receive early warning signals when a disaster happens and organise evacuations.” Where there are no cyclone shelters, Caritas helps to adapt existing buildings, such as schools, so that they can provide a safe refuge during extreme weather. In remote Mothurapur in Bangladesh’s vast Sundarbans forest, Caritas began work on improvements to the village school in July 2008, raising the level of the floors and cementing them, strengthening pillars, building water-sealed latrines, repairing roofs and fences and setting up a rainwater harvesting tank for drinking water.When Cyclone Aila hit in May 2009, 19 families along with [...]

May 26, 2010

Bringing Solar Power to the People of Darfur

By |26 May 2010|

As climate change is heatedly debated by world leaders, communities in Darfur are finding sustainable solutions to water shortages in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) Camps. The rainy season in South Darfur typically lasts five or six months of the year. For the remainder, the land is dry, arid and desolate. With the length of the rainy season becoming increasingly unpredictable in Darfur, water has become a precious commodity. While the climate change debate is on the collective brows of our world leaders, innovative adaptive measures are being taken in Darfur to secure sustainable water sources amidst the continuing drought. Osman, the Project Coordinator of a Caritas supported Water and Sanitation Team (WATSAN) said, “Kubum Solar Water Project was initiated by the growing need for sustainable sources of water for IDP Communities in Darfur. This is the first successful example of an aid agency using a solar powered solution for the benefit [...]

April 30, 2010

Graffiti for change in Haiti

By |30 April 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier Graffiti artist Jerry has been covering the walls of Haiti’s relief camps with his works of art. His objective is tough is to encourage the Haitians to apply basic hygiene principles. “I am spraying for change. It is my mission to talk to the Haitian people,” says Jerry. He has a spray can in his hand and is looking at a wall he is covering with colorful graffiti. In the blazing sun, the young street artist’s forehead is covered with sweat. Restless, he is drawing one grinning character after another, all of them with impeccable clean hands, on the surrounding wall of the relief camp in Nazon. 5,000 people have found shelter in this camp since the earthquake. In this remote site where humanitarian aid has barely started to arrive, people are curious and enthusiastic about the artist’s performance. “It’s Jerry, it’s him, it’s Jerry, that is what he looks like!” [...]

March 31, 2010

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,” [...]

December 22, 2009

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.

September 3, 2009

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 [...]

August 30, 2009

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 [...]

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