Caritas sends SOS to help Indian flood victims

Caritas Internationalis has launched an appeal for more than $A9.31 million to assist Caritas India and the US Caritias organisation Catholic Relief Service, in delivering emergency relief to tens of thousands of families affected by flooding in the Indian states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir.

Heavy monsoon rains, which began in June, have claimed nearly 300 lives, displaced scores of people, and unleashed large-scale devastation. Reports put the total number of people affected by the disaster at more than two million. Weather forecasts indicate that the rains will likely continue during the coming days.

Caritas says the situation in the western state of Gujarat - one of the hardest hit - remains grim. Communication lines are down, electricity has been cut off, roads closed, and water supplies disrupted in many villages. Contaminated water sources and standing pools of water have raised the risk of disease, including outbreaks of gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, malaria, jaundice, and typhoid. Huge losses to property, agriculture, and livestock have been registered in the area, and livelihoods have been jeopardised as a result.

The government has called on army and air force units to help evacuate people to safer locations and to contribute to relief operations. Caritas India and Catholic Relief Services, who have been involved in coordination meetings with the government and other NGOS, have conducted needs assessments in the affected areas and designed a three-pronged strategy to help more than 20,000 families through emergency relief, rehabilitation, and disaster preparedness programs.

The Caritas statement, published yesterday on its website, says that one of the main priorities now is ensuring that people have enough food and clean drinking water to tide them over until normal daily activities can be resumed. Under the plan, Caritas India and CRS will provide families with rations of rice, pulses, and condiments for 10 days, and supply basic kitchen utensils and clothes to those who have lost all their belongings. Medical camps will be set up to offer health care services to an average of 300 people per camp, while temporary shelter will be provided to those in need.

Intermediate rehabilitation plans include cash-for-work initiatives focusing on the removal of debris from villages, cleaning of drainage lines, repair of access roads, and revival of water sources. Seeds are also to be distributed to the poorest farmers in a bid to restore livelihoods. Longer-term rehabilitation efforts and disaster preparedness programmes are also planned.

Caritas India and CRS aim to assist around 13,565 families in 140 villages in Gujarat, 8233 families in 76 villages in Madhya Pradesh, and families in 34 villages in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Caritas Australia is now accepting donations - go to http://www.caritas.org.au

Caritas Launches Appeal to Help Flood Victims in India (Caritas Internationalis 12/7/05)

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13 Jul 2005