Caritas Collects $63 Million to Aid South East Asia

U.S. Donations Top $25 Million

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 14, 2005 ( Caritas Internationalis has collected over $63 million worldwide to assist the populations of South East Asia scourged by the recent tsunami.

«The funds collected by the Caritas network are being sent directly to the Caritas of the affected countries, as requested, to finance emergency works,» stated Caritas Internationalis in a report sent to ZENIT.

According to international relief agency, the U.S. Catholic Relief Service has given $25 million, the most of any one Caritas agency.

Other contributions came from the following agencies: Caritas-Austria ($9,572,122); Caritas-Spain ($8,878,760); Caritas-Germany ($5,866,920); CAFOD, the Caritas agency in England ($3,559,510); Caritas-Switzerland ($1,960,869); Caritas-France ($1,339,840); Trocaire, the Caritas agency in Ireland ($3,559,510); Caritas-Australia ($1,293,847); Cordaid, the Caritas agency in Holland ($1,156,170); and Caritas-Italy ($812,680).

Although there are 12 Asian and African countries affected in some way by the Dec. 26 tidal wave, the Caritas international network — made up of 162 national Caritas agencies worldwide — has decided to aid the four countries where the human and material damage has been greatest: Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Caritas is also sympathetic to the cause of Bangladesh and is seeking additional information in other areas such as Myanmar.

In response to a government petition, Caritas-India has reached the most remote areas the government has been unable to assist. The number of dead in this country has already reached 10,000 and is rising.

In Sri Lanka, there are serious risks to health due to the contamination of the water, air pollution, and epidemics of typhus, diarrhea, bronchitis and pneumonia. In regard to the infrastructure, 21,885 homes have been destroyed and 93,054 damaged. Displaced people are being temporarily sheltered in 611 centers.

Caritas-Sri Lanka has organized more than 1,000 community groups throughout the country, federated by districts and made up of hundreds of volunteers and community leaders. These groups have considerable experience to assist in this emergency because they have been actively involved in humanitarian action with the victims of the civil war, which has devastated the country for decades.

In Thailand, in addition to the dead among tourists, the most affected groups have been the most vulnerable: fishermen, small businessmen, tourist service personnel and relatives who were visiting family members living near or on the coast as the catastrophe occurred on a Sunday.

The affected population needs psychological care, bags for corpses, food, clothing, and health care, Caritas indicated.

COERR-Caritas-Thailand, together with Thailand’s episcopal conference, are engaged in first-aid care, in which they have ample experience as they constantly assist victims of natural disasters, shelter refugees from neighboring countries, and support Thailand’s border areas affected by the influx of refugees.

The organization has a team of 80 people working throughout the country. Religious congregations in Thailand have assigned twenty nuns to the emergency service for an initial 6-month period.

In Indonesia, cases are being reported of diarrhea, skin and respiratory ailments, as well as psychological trauma.

Caritas sources in Indonesia reported three main problems: the difficulty of coordinating the work of the NGOs and government agencies; the difficulty in reaching the most remote areas affected, and the lack of drivers, which exacerbates the problem of transport. But, perhaps the most urgent need is the psychological care of the victims, as there are few organizations focusing on this problem.

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