By Angela Ford Caritas emergency response teams in the Pacific are preparing for emergency relief as one of the most powerful cyclones to hit Samoa in 20 years devastates Apia. Cyclone Evan made landfall on Thursday 13 December, with winds up to 160 km per hour. At least two people have died, and many are missing. Samoa has declared a state of disaster with widespread structural damage to outlying buildings, homes and critical infrastructure. Locals have been left without power and food shortages are possible. Caritas Samoa report that flooding in Apia is widespread, powerlines and trees are down and many homes are destroyed. Flooding is the major cause for concern in the short-term, with water levels up to 8ft in areas. Mr Puletini Tuala Caritas Samoa Director reports, “the most urgent need at this stage is for water and tinned food. We are planning for an initial assessment of damage in coastal areas [...]
by Martin de Jong, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand Against a backdrop of severe drought across the central Pacific, Caritas Oceania representatives from eight different nations gathered in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand earlier this month for their annual forum. About 25 people attended the week-long event, including representatives from Caritas Internationalis, and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) – Asia. Many of the states represented, such as Tonga and Kiribati, are among the most vulnerable to climate change due to their low-lying nature or vulnerable shorelines. A closing statement from the forum said its members stand ‘in solidarity with the poor and marginalized of the region. We are particularly concerned by the impact of climate change in our area.’
A magnitude 6.3 earthquake, depth 5km, occurred 10 km south-east of Christchurch last night in New Zealand. Current reports are that large parts of the city have been damaged and there are a number of casualties. A state of emergency has been declared in the city. Caritas New Zealand said this morning, “We are attempting to obtain as accurate a picture as possible in terms of damage to property and lives, which we believe is considerably more than as a result of the last quake in Sep 2010." Caritas New Zealand does not usually respond to domestic emergencies, but works alongside Catholic Social Services and St. Vincent de Paul to channel funding for their work of trauma counselling and relief supplies respectively. Caritas is as yet unable to say what response will be. Meanwhile Caritas requests your prayers and solidarity for the victims of this event.
Caritas staff have sent their condolences to the family and colleagues of Bishop Michael Bunlen Mansap, who died in Bangkok 2 December. Bishop Mansap served as Vice President of Caritas Internationalis for the Asia and Oceania Regions from 1979 to 1984. He had previously served as Regional Coordinator for Caritas in Asia and Oceania from 1974 to 1976. He was the founder of the Catholic Council of Thailand for Development (CCTD), a member of the Caritas confederation until Caritas Thailand replaced it recently. Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga and Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight conveyed their prayers to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand. In a message to the bishops, they commended Bishop Mansap’s faithful service and prophetic proclamation of God’s Word: “He is remembered for his commitment to the Church’s social teachings, social development, justice and peace as well as empowerment of the poor for their total human development.” Bishop [...]
By Tim Walsh, Caritas Oceania A workshop organized by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) was held during the first week of June in Rarotonga, the capital of the Cook Islands. The aim was to improve the coordination of both the emergency and the gradual response to weather events as part of an ongoing effort to manage the effects of climate change. The majority of workshop participants were islanders from Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Mangaia, Mauke and Mitiaro, and included representatives from Caritas Oceania, New Zealand Aid, Red Cross Fiji, the Commission for Justice, Peace and Development, and government officials. There was also a presence from UN agencies and the national office for disaster management (Emergency Management Cook Islands). Participants from the Cook Islands agreed from the onset that, while it is important to present their evolving predicament to the wider international community, the process needs to be implemented [...]
Papua New Guinea (PNG) has the highest HIV infection rate in the Pacific region. The true figure of people living with the disease in 2008 was estimated by the United Nations organisation UNAIDS at around 54,000 (out of a population of six million) although only half that figure was officially reported. Caritas supports an extensive network of centres in PNG providing quick, economical testing, as well as follow-up counselling, under the sponsorship of the Catholic bishops of the country. The regular supply and distribution of HIV rapid test kits ensures centres are well stocked. The demand for test kits has risen significantly as increased awareness of the facilities encourages more people to be tested. The care centres also provide counselling for couples and promote prevention of mother-to-child transmission. They offer treatment and support to orphans and vulnerable children. Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS, travelled to PNG in [...]
Caritas emergency officers are at full stretch bringing aid to the survivors of a series of humanitarian disasters. Typhoon Ketsana appeal Tyhpoon Ketsana (known locally as Typhoon Ondoy) has made 600,000 people homeless in the Philippines and left 1.8 million people in need. The storm has left a trail of destruction across Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Caritas is providing aid to the most vulnerable in the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia. Caritas and the Catholic Church in the Philippines has already helped survivors with food and shelter and is rushing to do more. For the Philippines, Caritas has launched an appeal for US$ 980,216.29 (Euros 666,813.80) to provide food, medicine, shelter materials and other aid items for 50,000 of the worst affected people for a month. In Cambodia Typhoon Ketsana caused extensive damage. It forced 20,000 people from their homes and destroyed scores of buildings and some infrastructure. Caritas will provide a one month food ration [...]