Mina, 11, reads sign warning about the symptoms and preventions of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Largurang village, Bamyan, Afghanistan. On 7 April 2020 Catholic Relief Services (Caritas member organisation in the United States) staff distributed posters and warnings about the signs of the coronavirus as well as possible ways to prevent it. Photo by Stefanie Glinski/Catholic Relief Services.

Caritas Launches Covid-19 Response

Coordination with Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development

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Caritas Internationalis is part of a commission for Covid-19 created by Pope Francis. The confederation will coordinate with the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (DPIHD) the first working group of the Commission dedicated to listening and supporting local Churches.

Aloysius John, secretary-general of Caritas says, “In Africa, Asia, Middle East, Latin America, Oceania, and Europe, Caritas is at the forefront in responding to COVID-19, even in areas where no other organization is working. Our work is a living witness of the mission of the Church at the service of the most vulnerable and of the entire human family.”

Together with the DPIHD, Caritas Internationalis has already started a feedback mechanism for local Churches.

Over 140 Bishops Conferences have responded to a survey indicating which are the most urgent needs of the respective areas and which programs have been put in place to deal with the spread of the pandemic. This will allow us, in synergy with the Dicastery, to provide adequate answers.

Its capillary presence and the fact that it is well-rooted in social realities have allowed Caritas to react promptly worldwide to COVID-19 and to carry on its aid programs.

“When we presented Pope Francis with our work against Covid a few days ago. He said: ‘Be agile and quick and continue to carry on your work. If you don’t do it, who will’?”

In order to be able to provide immediate and effective responses, Caritas Internationalis created the COVID-19 Response Fund. Meant to be a visible sign of solidarity of the universal Church, this global fund will support projects introduced by Catholic organizations including Caritas to help contain the propagation of the pandemic through different preventive activities, with particular attention to those countries where the spread of the pandemic could have far more devastating consequences, than in Europe.

The fund will prioritize the provision of health care services in areas such as prevention and control of infections, access to clean water and sanitation, procurement of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, etc). The fund will also consider proposals that aim to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, which include raising awareness and disseminating information to prevent contagion, as well as reinforcing community services, including ensuring food security.

“Unfortunately, there are areas where the pandemic is considered the lesser evil by the vulnerable population,” says Aloysius John. “In Rwanda, for example, in certain areas people do not comply with safety measures due to the serious shortage of food. They tell ‘we prefer to die from Covid than from hunger’.”

It is more important than ever to continue to ensure life-saving services such as those provided by Caritas, despite the fact COVID-19 is having a major impact on our work towards the most vulnerable. For example, Caritas Jerusalem’s staff in Palestine are currently running out of funds and risk having to interrupt their service, which include providing food assistance and hygiene kits to 500 needy families.

Requests for help have already arrived, but the ability to respond will depend on the funds that can be collected. To allow Caritas and other charitable organizations of the local Churches to continue their aid programs and to face the pandemic, Caritas Internationalis urges people to contribute to the COVID-19 Response Fund.

“Today we are united in fear, but we should also be united in solidarity through universal fraternity. The only way to confront this pandemic is to be united in overcoming this massive challenge to humanity,” Aloysius John said.

It is possible to make donations through Caritas Internationalis website and through a dedicated Institute for the Works of Religion Bank Account (IBAN: VA29001000000020179007).

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