During the 20th century, three influenza pandemics caused the deaths of millions of people. The world is overdue another one – but no one knows when or how severe it will be. Caritas is concerned that poor people will suffer disproportionately because they are malnourished or have less access to decent medical care. They may also suffer from compromising health issues, such as HIV and tuberculosis.
An influenza pandemic begins when a new virus – which is markedly different from other strains – emerges and begins circulating rapidly. Caritas understands that very few people will have any immunity and that as many as half of a country’s people may become ill. Death rates will be high. Caritas is working alongside governments and international organisations like the World Health Organization to plan courses of action.
The active support of communities will be essential to the success of even the best-developed plans. Faith communities – like the Catholic Church – will be a valuable public resource. They will be called on to help and their congregations will deliver information, medication and comfort.
With its presence in more than 160 countries, Caritas will have an important part to play in the event of another influenza pandemic.