Action, awareness and advocacy, without forgetting prayer. These are the guidelines of the work of Caritas, today at the forefront worldwide to respond to COVID-19 pandemic.
As explained this morning during an online press conference with the general secretary of Caritas Internationalis, Aloysius John, each of the 165 national Caritas has put in place projects and measures to support the populations affected by the pandemic and to prevent the virus from spreading in countries where this it is still in its infancy.
Although in many countries Caritas staff had also to take precautions and abide to the measures imposed by their respective governments, the charity work did not stop and is managing to reach, even with a certain dose of creativity, the most vulnerable people who at this time of crises are likely to be even more left behind.
In Italy, despite the dramatic situation, Caritas’ work has continued through soup kitchens, dormitories for the homeless and assistance to the elderly, including through a dedicated telephone line. In many other countries – including Armenia, Uganda and Ukraine – telephone psychological assistance and support services have been activated. In Venezuela, where the spread of the virus is aggravating an already disastrous economic situation, volunteers also provide food aid and hygiene kits at home.
In India, where the pandemic is just starting but hundreds are already infected, Caritas has supplied more than 72 thousand bottles of disinfectant, over 4 million masks and 64 thousand kits for personal hygiene. In the Philippines, the desire to continue to help has led to the creation of “kindness stations” where food aid is distributed to the poorest.
Caritas awareness work is very important to inform, especially vulnerable people, on how to prevent infection. Its vast network of grassroots organisations around the world helps get across the message to even the most isolated communities. “Everyone – John remarked – has the right to receive the right orientation to avoid getting infected.”
In Rwanda, for example, Caritas started broadcasting awareness messages through diocesan radio even before there was only one case of Covid-19. There are also numerous Caritas that disseminate information door to door and through printed information material.
In this particularly tragic moment, Caritas Internationalis urges us to turn our attention in particular to the poorest and developing countries, where a spread of the pandemic could have even more catastrophic consequences than those we have witnessed in Europe and in Western countries. These Caritas are already working to identify the media structures managed by the Church that could be put in use if the virus spreads.
But above all, international aid must not stop. “This crisis is mainly affecting Europe and other Western countries, but we must not lose sight of those poor countries that could be more helpless and in need of global solidarity,” said Aloysius John.
At the same time, the Confederation urges us not to forget the most vulnerable people who live in every State. Especially migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who are at greater risk of contagion due to the conditions in which they live. Caritas calls on local authorities to guarantee them access to basic services, regardless of their legal status.
“Finally, we must all learn an important lesson from this tragic pandemic – said John – now that we know what it means to fear death or to lose our dear ones, we can no longer continue to kill through wars and violence. As the Holy Father told us last week, Covid-19 must also bring out the best in us. It must bring out humanity because we are all human beings and we must live in solidarity as a single human community.”
For more information, please contact Marta Petrosillo at firstname.lastname@example.org