Caritas-India Focuses on Rural Poor of Gujarat

Death Toll Varies Between 60,000 and 100,000

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ROME, FEB. 6, 2001 ( Caritas-India is concentrating its relief efforts in the poor rural regions of the earthquake-devastated state of Gujarat.

Ten days after the Jan. 26 disaster, death counts are still not complete. Figures vary between 60,000 and 100,000 dead.

Caritas-India teams, made up of health agents and social workers, assisted 35,000 families during the first days of the tragedy, Caritas-Madrid´s information service reported.

Caritas-India is giving priority attention to rural areas in the municipalities of Bachau, Bhuj and Gandhidam. The work has the following objectives: to give immediate help and food to 20,000 families; provide emergency housing for 6,000 families; and reduce the risk of diseases.

Caritas-India is focusing on rural areas because urban areas are being helped by other nongovernmental organizations. It maintains five refugee camps for victims and the St. Joseph Hospital in Gandhidam, caring for more than 3,000 people.

Caritas-International has increased its appeal for funds for Caritas-India to $2.6 million from an initial $1 million. Tents, medicines, blankets, and waxed plastic for the construction of temporary shelters are among the materials most urgently needed, according to Caritas-India. Among the donations in kind, is a field hospital sent by Caritas-Poland.

«Catholic Relief Services is now making plans to assist with housing rehabilitation and reconstruction in the earthquake zone,» CRS´ country representative in India, Will Lynch, explained. «People need shelter — tents today and secure homes tomorrow.» CRS has contributed $650,000 toward emergency earthquake relief.

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