Category Archives: Emergencies

Famous for being there before, during and after a disaster, Caritas launched international responses to 40 emergencies in 2007.

Aid making its way to victims of Typhoon Haiyan in Philippines

The Caritas Manila office has been transformed into loading centre as 250 volunteers work in shifts to pack aid destined for people in the most affected regions of the country.  By Eoghan Rice/Caritas

The Caritas Manila office has been transformed into loading centre as 250 volunteers work in shifts to pack aid destined for people in the most affected regions of the country. By Eoghan Rice/Caritas

By Eoghan Rice

Aid is arriving into the worst affected regions of the Philippines, bringing much needed supplies to people who lost everything in last weekend’s typhoon.

The Caritas Manila office has been transformed into loading centre as 250 volunteers work in shifts to pack aid destined for people in the most affected regions of the country.

Volunteers have been packing goods into family packs since Sunday and tomorrow (Wednesday) will see the first batch flown to the Leyte province, which bore the brunt of the disaster.

Each family pack contains 5 kilos of rice, 9 canned goods, 6 packets of noodles and 5 packets of protein rich manna rice. The packs are designed to last a family of five people three days and tomorrow 2,000 such packs will be sent to Leyte.  By Eoghan Rice/Caritas

Each family pack contains 5 kilos of rice, 9 canned goods, 6 packets of noodles and 5 packets of protein rich manna rice. The packs are designed to last a family of five people three days and tomorrow 2,000 such packs will be sent to Leyte. By Eoghan Rice/Caritas

Each family pack contains 5 kilos of rice, 9 canned goods, 6 packets of noodles and 5 packets of protein rich manna rice. The packs are designed to last a family of five people three days and tomorrow 2,000 such packs will be sent to Leyte

May Tiangco of Caritas Manila said: “The volunteers are mostly from local youth groups. They work here in shifts. They started packing on Sunday and tomorrow (Wednesday) we will send the first 2,000 food packs to nine affected areas. We plan on sending 20,000 packs over the next few weeks.”

The southern province of Cebu, one of the worst affected regions Credit: Caritas Philippines

The southern province of Cebu, one of the worst affected regions Credit: Caritas Philippines

In the southern province of Cebu, one of the worst affected regions, Irish nun Sr. Anne Healy is helping to deliver food to 3,000 people, many of them children.

“It’s a desperate situation”, said Sr. Healy. “Local people are donating clothes to people who lost everything, so that allows us to focus on getting food. [Because of shortages] the price of food has gone up so many people can’t afford to buy it. We have been able to buy rice and other products at local markets and distribute it to people.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in the Philippines, Philippines

What Caritas aid will look like in the Philippines

Food is an urgent need in the Philippines. Credit: Caritas

Food is an urgent need in the Philippines. Credit: Caritas

Caritas member organisations have pledged €1.5 million in aid to the Philippines so far to help save lives and rebuild communities after a massive storm hit 8 November. The confederation is working through Caritas Philippines-NASSA, with the support of Catholic Relief Services, an American Caritas member. Local dioceses in the Philippines are already mobilising food to those most in need.

Emergency Shelter Kits
Typhoon Haiyan packed 235km/h winds that cut a swath of destruction through the Philippines, destroying tens of thousands of homes in its path. In Cadiz City, for example, about 5,000 houses have been destroyed. Based on population figures where the typhoon made direct hits, an estimated 200,000 homes could be destroyed.

Caritas will target heavily affected areas and distribute tarpaulins to families living in open areas. With the Philippines’ Bohol area having recently suffered a major earthquake in October, stocks of tarpaulins in Manila and Cebu City are low or depleted in the country.

We will assist families in constructing structures that will better protect them from the elements. Our teams will provide an emergency shelter kit that contains one durable tarp measuring 258 square feet, and nails for fastening it to an A-frame design. The frame can be made from salvaged materials or coconut lumber; the tarps are durable, long lasting and suitable for all climates. We have used this design extensively in other emergencies (most recently in the Bohol earthquake in the Philippines) and it has proven to be easy to assemble and well received by families.

Typhoon Haiyan packed 235km/h winds that cut a swath of destruction through the Philippines, destroying tens of thousands of homes in its path. Caritas member CRS has already purchased 18,000 tarps to be used as temporary shelter. Credit: Caritas

Typhoon Haiyan packed 235km/h winds that cut a swath of destruction through the Philippines, destroying tens of thousands of homes in its path. Caritas member CRS has already purchased 18,000 tarps to be used as temporary shelter. Credit: Caritas

Emergency Household Living Supplies Kit
We face critical needs for jerry cans, clean water, hygiene supplies, sleeping materials and kitchen sets in the coming weeks. These supplies can be procured locally. Families lost much of what they had inside their homes—with essential supplies buried under rubble—and need the basics just to get by. Markets are also closed. We will help families access essential living supplies. Priorities include blankets, soap, buckets, blankets, towels, toothpaste and sanitary napkins.

Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Kits
Families have limited access to clean drinking water due to the loss of electricity, damage to pipes and contamination of water sources. Hygiene and sanitation assistance is critical to preventing waterborne diseases that often occur in crises and contexts like these. Also, families’ toilets and bathing areas will have been damaged or destroyed, likely leading to people practicing open defecation. People will be unable wash clothes or bathe due to lack of necessary soap and or water. Caritas will distribute hygiene kits to families in the affected areas. The kits will include a jerry can (bucket), pail with cover, and water purifying treatments. Distributions will include information sessions so families are aware of the practices and benefits of hand washing and proper handling and storage of water to reduce the risk of disease.

Cost List

  • €6 ($8) provides a water kit for a family. This includes 1 jerry can, 1 pail and aqua tabs for water purification.
  • €11 ($15) provides an emergency shelter kit. This includes tarps and nails that are combined with local materials to create emergency shelter.
  • €16 ($22) provides household living supplies. This includes sleeping mats, three blanket, utensils, plastics, glasses, and a cooking pot.
  • €21 ($28) provides hygiene kits. This includes a two-month family supply of soap, laundry powder, toothbrush, toothpaste, feminine sanitary napkins, and towels.

Note: The amounts cover items only. They do not include costs associated with distribution, training and monitoring.

Support our work in the Philippines

Source: CRS

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in the Philippines, Philippines

Some areas of the Philippines face ‘total ruin’

Credit: Caritas Philippines

Credit: Caritas Philippines

Caritas aid workers say they’re shocked by the scenes of devastation they’re witnessing in the aftermath of a typhoon which struck the Philippines on Friday.

Tacloban City on Leyte has been a focus of attention. Caritas Philippines-NASSA staff member Rey Barnido said, “Patients are overflowing from the regional hospital. There are dead people everywhere. There is no water or power. Volunteers are trying to manage the disaster. It looks as if nuclear bombs were dropped.”

A Caritas Philippines and American Caritas member Catholic Relief Services team arrived in Ormoc on Leyte yesterday and traveled to Palo today. They say roads are filled with debris, most homes are uninhabitable due to damage and shops and other buildings are destroyed.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of Caritas Philippines, fears other areas have been hit just as badly. Samar Islands has over 700,000 people. It was the first place the storm made landfall. Hundreds are confirmed dead and thousands are missing. Giporlos and Guiuan are reported to be “totally ruined” and 2,000 are listed as missing in Basey alone.

“We are getting reports from Panay and Biliran that the situation there is very difficult. Houses have been leveled. There are many casualties. They haven’t been reached yet. People lack the basic necessities,” said Fr Gariguez.

Caritas volunteers preparing aid packages in Manila, Philippines for typhoon survivors Credit: Caritas Manila

Caritas volunteers preparing aid packages in Manila, Philippines for typhoon survivors
Credit: Caritas Manila

Caritas agencies are in the process of mobilizing resources to help in the most affected areas. Local Caritas and Church partners have been able to get food to some of the worst hit areas.

CRS has procured 18,000 tarpaulins for shelter,and its other support will include water and hygiene supplies and non-food-item kits for 5,000 families. Cash-for-work community clean up and debris removal area also planned.

Emergency response staff from the Caritas Internationalis General Secretariat in Rome and Caritas members around the world are heading to the Philippines as relief efforts gear up. Caritas organisations around the world have so far pledged €1,435,000

Support our work in the Philippines

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in the Philippines, Philippines

Philippines storm survivors in great need

Church evacuation centre in Tacloban City. Photo care of church volunteer.

Church evacuation centre in Tacloban City. Photo care of church volunteer.

A picture of massive devastation is emerging from the Philippines after a super typhoon struck Friday. Communication remains to be a challenge but local staff have been able to speak with some of the worst hit regions.

More than 3 million people are located within 30 miles of the direct path of Typhoon Haiyan – known locally as Yolanda. There is a high level of destruction especially in these areas. The hardest-hit communities have no water, no food and no electricity.

At least 9.5 million people have been affected in the Philippines.

Tacloban City had a tidal surge of nearly 10 feet. Families from informal settler communities are the worst hit by the storm surge and need immediate assistance according to the local church.

Residents walk on a road littered with debris after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 10. Photo by Reuters/Erik De Castro, courtesy Trust.org

Residents walk on a road littered with debris after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 10. Photo by Reuters/Erik De Castro, courtesy Trust.org

The airport there is now cleared and supplies are arriving. But many areas have yet to been reached. United Nations teams described the scene from the air as being on a scale of the 2004 India Ocean tsunami.

A number of islands have been hit. Leyte and Samar are said to have received severe damage. Reports says a path has been leveled across Leyte, including Ormoc City.

A Caritas Philippines and Catholic Relief Service team (CRS is a Caritas member) reached Leyte by boat today to assess the most urgent needs. From data on wind speeds and storm surge, as well as the levels of poverty, Caritas fears the scale of destruction in yet unreached areas will be catastrophic.

Water, hygiene and sanitation, food, medicine, shelter, debris clearance, logistics and communications are immediate priorities according to the government.

A man stands atop debris as residents salvage belongings from the ruins of their houses after Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines. REUTERS/Erik De Castro courtesy Trust.org

A man stands atop debris as residents salvage belongings from the ruins of their houses after Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines. REUTERS/Erik De Castro courtesy Trust.org

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of Caritas Philippines-NASSA, said, “It’s a great catastrophe, but our emergency planning is underway. We are in great need.”

Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, speaking from Tegucigalpa, said, “Our prayers are with the people of Philippines. They are a people who have suffered many natural disasters in the past, always with great resilience and faith. They can be assured of the support of Caritas around the world.”

Pope Francis also prayed for the victims of the typhoon after the Sunday Angelus in St Peter’s Square. He firstly called for silent prayer, and then led the faithful in a recitation of the Hail Mary. He urged those present to help their brothers and sisters in the Philippines concretely, as well as through prayer.

Please support our work in response to Typhoon Haiyan.

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in the Philippines, Philippines

Syrian refugee crisis: Call to action

A Syrian refugee camp in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, where six families are charged US$133 each to rent the land where a three room makeshift  accommodation has been constructed in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. By Danny Lawson/PA Wire

A Syrian refugee camp in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, where six families are charged US$133 each to rent the land where a three room makeshift accommodation has been constructed in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. By Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Val Morgan from the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund blogs on the Caritas Syrian refugee emergency response from Lebanon and Jordan.

They flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs – many traumatised by the horrific violence they have seen and experienced. Now they are homeless, often grieving for the loss of their previous peaceful lives and the death of their children, parents or wider family. This is the situation for the ever increasing Syrian refugee population as they flee for their lives over the boarders into neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

In Tripoli, Bekaa Valley, Saida, Amman and Zarkq and elsewhere in Lebanon and Jordan Caritas is running emergency projects to help refugees and vulnerable people in the host communities. The individual stories of suffering are harrowing, their outlook bleak.

One woman who spoke to a Caritas aid worker, Shaha Ibrahim, was four months pregnant when she fled with her husband and first child. Her new baby girl, Bayane, is now just 2 months old. Like many others, she has lost family: “My two cousins were killed in a bombing. We ran away from our home but our cousins didn’t make it,” she said.

Her husband, Abboud, said that before they fled “We could see the bombs falling and the buildings on fire around us. There were so many dead bodies and body parts in the street. A lot of our neighbours were killed or injured by shrapnel. When we saw the bodies we thought we would be next. We ran from one place to the next but didn’t even have food – our children were starving.”

Once over the border, the plight of Syrian refugees remains one of immense struggle. The conditions many families find themselves are absolutely appalling.

There are no official refugee camps in Lebanon so the they have to find shelter wherever they can in derelict buildings and temporary shelters made from waste

For those with some money, the rent rooms. Some families are extremely vulnerable. I spoke to Ahmad Salameh who had been living with his wife, children, and five other families in a cow shed with a pipe leaking human waste into it. This is where they had been sheltering, sleeping and eating.

The space was approximately three metres by five metres. The other five families were all headed by his sisters-in-law as two of his brothers had been killed and three remained in Syria. Fortunately Ahmad and his extended families have now built a shelter on land they are renting nearby. It is cleaner and they have more space.

There is less illness in the family and it is a little warmer. These are the people who Caritas are providing aid to. Ahmad and his wider family received food, blankets and mattresses. Others receive hygiene kits including soap, cloths, diapers, medical care, trauma counselling, fuel, stoves, school fees, uniforms and books for children and rent vouchers depending on their situation.

As the horrific war in Syria continues the problems are set to deteriorate further as between 3,000 to 4,000 new refugees cross the border into Lebanon every day. Put simply, there isn’t enough emergency aid for the growing number of refugees.

Syrians now make up around 25 per cent of the country’s population with conservative estimates of refugees at 1.1 million with a Lebanese population of 4 million. It is easy to imagine the enormous impact the Syrian war and refugee crisis is having on Lebanon.

There are also many poor and vulnerable Lebanese families who need help. There is now a shortage of cheap rental accommodation, food prices are rising, growing waiting lists for schools, and unemployment and crime are soaring. With such an intense scramble for resources the prospect of civil unrest between the refugees and their hosts is a very real possibility with isolated trouble already occurring.

Fantastic work is being done by Caritas on the ground, working alongside other charities and the UNHCR. But the needs remain great. That is why it is more important than ever that we continue to support the Syrian refugees and their host communities. This is already a deep humanitarian catastrophe and no one should be fooled into thinking that it cannot get worse. It can. And it will be the innocent and desperate refugees and their hosts in neighbouring countries who will suffer.

Now is a time for action.

Leave a comment

Filed under Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Middle East & North Africa, Peacebuilding, Syria, Turkey, United Kingdom

Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon: violence against women

Photo credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Photo credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Val Morgan from the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) blogs on the Caritas Syrian refugee emergency response from Lebanon and Jordan

“Sexual violence and abuse of women is a major problem but it is not in our culture to talk about it. We have heard some terrible stories from the Zatari camp,” said one aid worker I spoke to in Jordan.

I had seen this problem before in the Democratic Republic of Congo when very large numbers of people flee their homes and are displaced by war. It is often the case in these situations that women and girls become much more exposed to abuse and sexual violence.

This horrific problem now seems to be spreading as an indirect result of the ongoing war in Syria. Yet again, ordinary people are carrying the heaviest burden. In Lebanon, I spoke to Fatme Mchawreb, a senior social worker at the Saida migrant centre. Fatma told me the problem was on the rise.

“Mothers have no protection if they are on their own. Sexual violence and abuse is increasing. However, people do not talk about it as sex is a taboo subject in this country. But rape is happening here in Lebanon.

“Before, UNHCR would deal with these cases but we have taken over from them and in the last three months we are discovering more and more of these cases. Up to now we had referred them to Abaad, a specialist NGO in Syria.”

“We already have a sexual violence and abuse programme with workers doing training for people in the community. The support we provide includes trying to help those affected meet their material needs, and also a referral to a psychologist.

“With the abuse of women we often discover it when we do our first home visit. Sometimes the women come to us after they have been beaten by their husband.”

They need someone to support them and they trust the social worker.

Leave a comment

Filed under Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Middle East & North Africa, Peacebuilding, Refugees, Syria, United Kingdom, Women

Syrian refugees in Lebanon: people behind the numbers

Shaha Ibrahim and one of her daughters (Photo: Val Morgan)

Shaha Ibrahim and one of her daughters (Photo: Val Morgan)

Val Morgan from the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) blogs on the Caritas Syrian refugee emergency response from Lebanon and Jordan

How can so much pain and suffering be inflicted upon a people and no notice taken by those that are inflicting it. Tell me the ideology or political view that outweighs the right to life?

Around 9.3 million of Syria’s 23 million inhabitants need aid. The number of people who have lost their homes or been forced to flee has now reached 6.5 million in Syria and over 2 million in neighbouring countries.

But behind every single number there is a fellow human being who cherishes life, loves his or her family and simply wants to live in peace.

Shaha and Abboud Ibrahim have two lovely girls and fled from Hasaki in Syria. When an eighteen day battle raged around them they were trapped. When they and their children emerged into daylight so they could escape buildings continued to burn around them and dead bodies littered the streets.

Abboud told me, “A lot of our neighbours were killed or injured by shrapnel, we saw their bodies – we thought we would be next – the children were starving. We fled into the wild. It took us a month to walk to Lebanon.”

When all this occurred Shaha was 3 months pregnant. Thankfully her lovely child, Byane who is now two months old, was born safely and is part of a loving family.It seems that everyone that has lost someone, and their current life is difficult.

Ahmad had five brothers – now two are dead – the others remain in Syria. He lives with his wife and children, and the families of his five sisters-in-law. Now their situation just about bearable as they stay in a hand-built shack made of plastic sheeting and some breeze-blocks.

The children are often ill and haven’t been to school since they fled. They are poor and struggle to survive. However, up until recently they had all been living in a cow shed three metres by five metre with a sewerage pipe with human waste flowing from it.

I saw it with my own eyes and couldn’t imagine being in such a bad situation that moving into that foul cowshed was a step in the right direction.

Throughout these meetings I was accompanied by the good staff of Caritas Lebanon who walk alongside those who are hurting, as well as provide them with practical aid such as food, hygiene kits, blankets, mattresses, fuel, stoves and medical care.

For all the horror that people are capable of, I keep in mind that there are always more good people in the world. When I meet the people and witness situations like this, I sometimes wonder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Syria, Lebanon, Syria, United Kingdom