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Caritas Confederation Active in Earthquake Regions

Wednesday 12 October, 2005

Caritas Confederation Active in the South Asia Earthquake Regions

As Caritas supporters in New Zealand respond to helping those affected by the devastating South Asia earthquake, members of the Caritas Confederation are working to provide coordinated assistance to thousands in need. Following a teleconference between national Caritas partners in the affected regions of Pakistan, India, Kashmir and Afghanistan, and Caritas agencies from around the world wishing to provide assistance, a clearer picture is emerging of what is happening on the ground.

An Emergency Response Support Team (ERST) has been dispatched to Pakistan, to help with needs assessments and the coordination of providing food, shelter, water, sanitation and medical care to the affected communities.

Caritas Pakistan’s Executive Secretary, Anila Gil, said that Caritas Pakistan is setting up medical relief camps in the stricken areas to provide health care. She also reported that many Caritas member organisations have expressed solidarity and offered assistance, including winter tents, blankets and the resources for the purchase of food and non-food relief items.

United States Caritas partner, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is one of the first emergency teams on the ground, and has been collaborating with local partners and other international humanitarian agencies providing needs assessments and to facilitate a coordinated response from the collective Caritas Internationalis community. In India, landslides have blocked roads in some places, and many mountainside villages are connected only by wide footpaths. The situation has been made more difficult by snowfall in the Kashmir region.

A team from Caritas India, which included Fr Alex Vadakuthala and Ray Kancharala, visited villages in Baramulla and Uri soon after the quake. The team described scenes of devastation and misery. “All their food and utensils are gone because they are buried in the rubble, so they don’t have anything to eat or to cook with,” said Fr Alex. “And there are bodies buried under the debris, which adds to the trauma. One young woman, Nafar, who is 25 years old, was breastfeeding her baby when the earthquake hit. The baby died when the rubble fell, and she is badly traumatised that she is unable to move.”

Caritas India reports that medicines, blankets, and other relief items have been provided, and that more are in the pipeline. The needs are great and Caritas India is now focused on providing food and water, medical care, sanitation to prevent the spread of disease, shelter, clothing, and trauma counselling for earthquake victims.

New Zealanders who wish to donate to the Caritas Pakistan/India Earthquake Appeal can do so in the following ways: Visit www.caritas.org.nz to make an online donation, or call 0900 4 11 11 to make an automatic $20 donation or post their donation to: Caritas Pakistan/India Earthquake Appeal

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