03/05/2008, 00.00
TAJIKISTAN

Catholics help Tajikistan’s poor survive extreme cold

Caritas Tajikistan and other international Catholic organisations join hands to help the elderly, the disabled and unwed mothers who are most at risk in the record cold that is gripping the country.

Dushanbe (AsiaNews/UCAN) – A group of about a hundred or so elderly people crowded at the gates of a Catholic nuns' house in Dushanbe to receive aid supplied by local Catholic and international organisations. February 18 was the first in a three-day programme to hand out food and relief supplies at the Servants of the Lord and Holy Virgin of Matara House.

Caritas Tajikistan and other Catholic relief agencies co-operated with Care International and the United States Catholic Relief Services (CRS). About 350 elderly and other needy people hard pressed by the cold snap and the lack of electrical power were helped.

Such a drop in temperatures (as low as minus 25) had not been seen for the past 25 years. Rivers have frozen reducing the amount of water reaching power stations to generate electrical energy for domestic use.

Ermakhmad Kholov, deputy chief of Caritas Tajikistan, said that the severe cold and lack of electricity have “seriously affected the life of many, especially poor people.” Before beginning the aid distribution, however, "we conducted careful research and involved social workers to find those who really need our help," Kholov explained. "We found these people to be pensioners, invalids and unwed mothers."

Care, CRS and Caritas pooled resources, and each of the 350 people on the list Caritas compiled received a 50-kilogram sack of flour, some other grains, pasta and cooking oil, along with a thermos, hot-water bottle and candles.

“We know Caritas also works with these categories of people, so we answered their request and gave that organization aid they could distribute among the people," said Marianna, a CARE official. “We took some funds from another project directed to unwed mothers and shared it among poor people suffering from the cold."

Volunteer Anton Petrov, 23, said he was helping the nuns because it is “better to do something good and help people than to sit at home without electricity or anything to do.”

Amalia Gavrilova said that when she was in a difficult situation some time ago the Church helped—"now it is our turn to give some of our time for voluntary work and help those who are in need."

“It is a real humiliation to live without an opportunity to heat one's house and cook a meal," said Maria Rakhimova, one of the many people helped by the aid. Still she prayed to God for the people that helped her and those helping distribute the aid at the nuns' house.

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