Manila (AsiaNews/CBCP) - REACHPhilippines, the recovery appeal programme launched by CBCP-NASSA/Caritas Philippines for Typhoon Yolanda survivors, has raised more than US$ 12 million.
"This is the most massive post-disaster recovery project Caritas Philippines has ever implemented so far," said Josephine Ignacio-Labonte, head of the unit coordinating humanitarian aid by Caritas.
It was a success, she said, "Not only in terms of the funding we were able to raise but more because of the number of communities (dioceses) being covered simultaneously and the number of projects we wanted to achieve".
Fr Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, said he too was happy. In his view, "even amid strong calamities, we do not easily lose hope."
Funds raised by Catholics total PHP 565 million (US$ 12.8 million) and have benefitted more than 141,000 people scattered in 118 communities, 35 municipalities and 9 dioceses.
What differentiates the project implemented by NASSA and Caritas is the close cooperation with the residents of the affected areas in setting priorities and defining reconstruction programmes.
In the nine dioceses affected by the typhoon, the focus was on shelters, material aid, sanitation, hygiene, and ecosystems recovery, with careful vetting of danger levels and mapping of at risk areas.
"After everything they have done for us, we need to be able to help ourselves already. If I want a better life, then I must do something," said one of the beneficiaries, Violeta Alcazaren, a resident of Iloilo.
Typhoon Yolanda (also known as Haiyan) struck the Visayas Islands (central Philippines) on 8 November 2013, affecting the lives of at least 11 million people. Reconstruction cost estimates stand at US$ 8 billion.
More than 1,700 people are still missing with more than 5,000 dead. President Aquino downplayed the figure, noting that the first estimates of 10,000 were the result of emotional reaction to the tragedy that that the number of dead did not exceed 2,500.
The area's size, its fragmentation and difficult access in some places have been a serious obstacle to intervention.
Most of the area's 11 millions of residents live spread out in 574 municipalities and cities, suffering various damages and losses.
In the weeks following the tragedy, the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) launched a fundraising campaign to help the survivors.