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    » 01/20/2005, 00.00

    INDIA

    After the tsunami children are our hope, says Andamans Bishop



    World Health Organisation chooses a Catholic hospital on the Nicobar Islands as its disease surveillance centre.

    Port Blair (AsiaNews) – Children and their stories are inspiring tsunami survivors on the Andamans, one of the hardest-hit areas by the December 26 tsunami.

    "It is a blessing to see sadness and despair turn into relief thanks to the smiling faces of children playing near the Cathedral," said Mgr Aleixo das Neves Dias, Bishop of Port Blair, the Catholic diocese of the Andamans.

    The Catholic Cathedral of Maria Stella Maris has become the largest refugee centre for tsunami survivors on the Islands. The building and a nearby school are now home to some 1.400 people. A big TV screen has been set up to give the displaced some distraction.

    A 13-year-old boy who refused to let go of his 2-year-old sister is staying at the Missionaries of Charity hostel which is normally reserved for women.

    The Islands' death toll is estimated at around 7,500.

    Bishop Dias heads a diocese serving some 40,000 Catholics spread across 576 islands and organised into 13 parish churches. The local clergy is made of 14 diocesan priests, 14 missionaries of St Francis Xavier (Pilar Fathers), 4 Jesuits, 3 Salesians and 2 Capuchins. There are also 86 nuns from 14 different congregations.

    Evangelisation of the Islands began with the Pilar Fathers. "But now," Bishop Dias said, "40 years of missionary work has to start over again".

    Most of the local 180 or so chapels must be rebuilt. Many churches, too, were swept away by the tsunami and must be reconstructed

    However, government officials have not been cooperating with Church staff in the relief work, according to the Bishop. They only come for official functions.

    "Ever since survivors found refugee in our buildings we have been giving them food, clothing and medicines," Bishop Dias said.

    The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions has already sent US$ 30,000 to the Indian Pilar Fathers and finance some of the relief and reconstruction work. PIME is still urging people to donate money to help it help tsunami victims.

    Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has chosen St John's Catholic Hospital on the Nicobar Islands (southern Andamans) as its disease surveillance centre from where it can assess the situation in the tsunami-affected areas.

    "A team of doctors and paramedical staff from St John's, a premier hospital run by Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), will document diseases and help in the prevention of disease outbreaks," said Dr. Sanjiv Lewin, head of the hospital's paediatric unit. A second team is setting up health care posts across the islands.

    The hospital is also working towards rebuilding the education system. "We found that at least 88 of the 150 odd teachers were either missing or dead. Most schools have been swept away," Dr Lewin said. The hospital will raise resources to build schools and enrol children. (LF-SD)

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    See also

    20/01/2005 ITALY - ASIA
    PIME tsunami campaign to assist Andaman Islands
    Schools in Italy are paired with schools in the tsunami-affected areas.

    26/01/2005 ASIA
    A month after the tsunami Christians leading reconstruction efforts


    30/12/2004 INDIA
    Salesians in Chennai: "People are helping, the government is slow"

    Inter-religious solidarity and prayers in churches for tsunami victims.



    25/04/2005 ITALY - ASIA
    PIME's tsunami campaign raises over 1.6 million euros
    Various projects still have to be completed in the affected areas. Appeals are made for the world not to forget even if TV coverage has come to an end.

    05/01/2005 EU - ASIA
    Europe, 3-minute silence for dead and missing

    The death toll from the tsunamis will be over 155,000. WHO estimates there are more than 500,000 people injured and in need of medical care.





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