03/24/2020, 16.57
PHILIPPINES
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Caritas helps the poor fight hunger and fear in locked-down Manila

Day labourers are the hardest hit. Some 3,042 food bags have been distributed to parishes and communities. Some 10,080,912 pesos (US8,000) have been raised. Gift certificates and food vouchers have been given to more than 5 million people. For Caritas Manila’s executive secretary, the social impact of the emergency should not be overlooked.

Manila (AsiaNews) – Fear, but above all hunger are the main consequences of the coronavirus outbreak among the poor in Metro Manila, placed under a government lockdown to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, this according to Fr Anton C. T. Pascual (picture 2), who spoke to AsiaNews about the ongoing crisis.

In the National Capital Region (NRC), “millions of people live below the poverty line,” said the clergyman who is the executive secretary of Caritas Manila. “Manila's lockdown has hit day labourers. For this reason, in the context of the ongoing health crisis, it is essential to solve the food problem.”

To this end, Caritas Manila’s Project Damayan (Compassion) calls for prayers and donations to support its efforts. Donations of goods and money are used to prepare Ligtas Covid 19 medical kits with items meant to reduce the risk of contracting virus (cost: 2,000 pesos or US) and the Caritas Manna Food Bag (cost 700 pesos or US) for the poorest under lockdown.

As of last night, 10,080,912 pesos (US8,000) have been raised and 3,042 food bags distributed to parishes and communities.

Caritas Manila is also behind another important initiative, in partnership with the business community and local authorities. As of yesterday, some of the most important national companies put together 1.5 billion pesos (US million) for gift certificates and food vouchers for the poor of Metro Manila and surrounding areas.

“The companies that joined the plan want the Church to hand out 1,000-peso coupons (US) to one million poor families. This means that about 5 million people will benefit. The sum will allow each poor urban family to be provided with food for five to seven days.”

Handing out gift certificates requires a lot of effort on the part of Caritas Manila volunteers. “Due to the government's restrictive measures, we are forced to go home to home, respecting the safety distance.” But “Families can go to the nearest supermarket to redeem the voucher. At present, this is the best we can do in the shortest time possible.”

Despite fears and uncertainties, “poor Filipinos keep their faith in God steadfast,” said the clergyman. “I had proof of this during my talks with many street vendors, drivers, workers, shop assistants.

“All of us, volunteers and Church people, are called to speak with them and be bearers of hope that we will overcome this virus. At the same time, we must insist on raising awareness in communities about social distancing and basic sanitation.”

Unfortunately, many people seem unwilling to accept the precautions adopted by the archdiocese to fight the spread of the virus. “Many want churches to be open; they want the Mass. At the moment, our Masses are limited to the Internet, radio and television. This is hard, because they want to receive the Communion,” Fr Pascual explained.

“We are waiting for the government to do its part to feed the people. The private sector and the Church have to do their part, but the problem of hunger will be felt more in the next few days.

The “government is at a loss, like in other countries. Its main concern seems to be the management of the health side of the crisis. But the social side cannot be overlooked. Hunger is a real problem, and we are all called to work together for the good of the people.” (PF)

(Photo credit: Caritas Manila).

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