The first wave of U.S. and Philippine cargo planes have delivered 66 tons of relief supplies; but delivery of supplies to where they’re needed most is difficult because of flooded roads, damaged infrastructure, and throngs of stunned survivors who roam the streets in the port city of Tacloban, faces shielded against the stench of dead bodies, desperate for food and water. Unconfirmed estimates are that the super typhoon killed as many as 10,000 men, women and children, particularly on the islands of Leyte and Samar; but the city manager of once-vibrant Tacloban worries that there may be 10,000 dead in his city alone.
HOW HAS POPE FRANCIS HELPED?
I rose early this morning—but even before my feet hit the floor, Pope Francis had already pledged a “first contribution” to aid the struggling Philippines. Through the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, he had arranged to send an aid contribution of $150,000 to assist the population of the island nation. According to the Vatican Information Service, this sum
“…will be distributed by the local Church in the regions most affected by the disaster, will be used to support aid work for the assistance of displaced persons from the flooded areas, and it is intended as a first and concrete expression of spiritual nearness and paternal encouragement on the part of the Supreme Pontiff in relation to the people and territories devastated by the floods.”
SO THEN, HOW HAVE THE AMERICAN BISHOPS RESPONDED?
It just happens that today was the first day of the USCCB (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) Fall General Assembly in Baltimore. They were live-streaming from the meeting on their website, so I watched a bit—in time to catch the report by Dr. Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services.
Woo reported that CRS had pre-committed $20 million for aid to the Philippines and other areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan, before they had actually raised the money. CRS’ goal is to serve 100,000 families, or roughly half a million people.
A CRS team led by Sean Callahan, regional director for South Asia, and Schuyler Thorup, Executive Vice President–Overseas Operations, will leave tomorrow for Manila. Once in the Philippines, they will make their way to the hardest hit areas; but Dr. Woo was uncertain how, given the desperate situation on the ground, they will move about the islands. For several weeks, the team will need to be self-sufficient, porting their own food, fuel, water and supplies.
Catholic Relief Service has plans to provide emergency shelter: 18,000 tarps which could be made into tent shelters, and basic supplies for 25,000 households. They will distribute non-food items, such as hygiene kits and will need to pay cash for work—to immediately enable people to help their families, by doing things such as debris removal and infrastructure repairs.
Eventually, CRS relief efforts will move into recovery mode, as people need housing, food and water, and as churches and diocesan structures need to be rebuilt. However, Dr. Woo explained, responding to a question from Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Michael Byrnes, that any parish or diocese which preferred to donate only to humanitarian aid could designate that funds raised be used for the initial emergency and not for reconstruction.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
CRS is asking bishops to organize a special collection in parishes on either of two designated weekends: November 16-17, or November 30-31.
If you are able to contribute now, rather than waiting for the parish collection, you can visit CRS’ Typhoon Haiyan webpage and donate on-line, or can call their toll-free number 877.435.7277 between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
The need is great. Please share what God has given you with your brothers and sisters around the world who now, despite their grief, must begin to rebuild their homes and their lives.