Caritas Internationalis: Helping to Rebuild the Philippines

Director Reflects on Typhoon Haiyan One Year Later

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A year ago, typhoon Haiyan devastated South East Asia, especially the Philippines, leaving at least 6,300 dead. It was the greatest cyclone to strike the Earth and is considered the most intense ever witnessed in terms of the velocity of the winds, with peaks of 325 kilometers per hour. It lasted from November 2-11, when it turned into a tropical storm.

It was a tragedy featured in all newspapers and media. So what is happening in the Philippines today? ZENIT interviewed Mrs. Irene Broz, director of Caritas Internationalis, in Rome on the emergency in the Philippines.

ZENIT: What are the current figures on this natural disaster?

Irene Broz: Some 16 million people were affected by the typhoon; an estimated 4 million were evacuated initially; there were 1.5 million homes damaged, 500,000 of which were destroyed. Almost 5.6 million workers had their sources of income altered. The majority of those affected, 40%, were already under the poverty line before the typhoon struck, that is, 2.5 million were already vulnerable. According to official data, the number of dead was 6,268.

ZENIT: What happened after the typhoon?

Irene Broz: The first phase of the emergency was underway, which began with first aid and lasted from November 2013 until the end of March, 2014, when the phase of reconstruction began, in which we are now.

ZENIT: What was the response at the international level?

Irene Broz: There was a very strong response by the international community and the Caritas Confederation. The latter has worked with the nine dioceses of the Philippines that have national Caritas offices there. Moreover, several members of Caritas Internationalis are still working directly in the country. In shrot, there is a very active presence in the place and very important economic support.

ZENIT: And how is the current situation?

Irene Broz: Given the scale of the disaster,there is still much to be done. The Philippines is picking itself up and proof of this is that the United Nations officet in charge of the humanitarian response is handing its functions over to the Government. The impact of the disaster was very significant and, after a year, many results can be seen. The main work is the reconstruction of homes, health, hygiene, water, drainage, so that people affected by the typhoon can have a roof over their heads, proper sanitary conditions and a source of income.

ZENIT: Which countries were the most generous?

Irene Broz: The most generous countries, in response to the Caritas Internationalis’ appeal — which does not include other organizations or funds of the national Caritas –, were England, Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Scotland, Italy, Austria and Spain.

ZENIT: How long will support plans be in place?

Irene Broz: The Government of the Philippines is taking up gradually the United Nations mandates through its means; however, the magnitude of the disaster indicates that at least two more years of interventions are necessary.

ZENIT: What is still lacking and how can one help?

Irene Broz: We must try to help those people and be ready to respond in front of future disasters. The more vulnerable populations are the more unprotected they are in face of danger. And this calls for continuous work on the spot. Because of their geographic location and geology, the Philippines are very exposed to this type of natural cataclysms, with several typhoons and earthquakes a year.

Donations can be sent to Caritas Internationalis through its website. It is necessary to state the destination of the funds, as we have so many emergencies in the world.

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On the NET:

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Sergio Mora

Buenos Aires, Argentina Estudios de periodismo en el Istituto Superiore di Comunicazione de Roma y examen superior de italiano para extranjeros en el Instituto Dante Alighieri de Roma. Periodista profesional de la Associazione Stampa Estera en Italia, y publicista de la Orden de periodistas de Italia. Fue corresponsal adjunto del diario español El País de 2000 a 2004, colaborador de los programas en español de la BBC y de Radio Vaticano. Fue director del mensual Expreso Latino, realizó 41 programas en Sky con Babel TV. Actualmente además de ser redactor de ZENIT colabora con diversos medios latinoamericanos.

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