At least 1,064 villages under water and 650 thousand people "have lost everything". Executive Director of Caritas India: "The population is desperate. Anguish is visible in their eyes ". The Catholic institution aims to distribute aid to over 15 thousand families. Volunteers trained on the principles of the Gospel, as well as on technical assistance and humanitarian law.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) - In the field with patience and dedication to reach even the most distant villages: this is what Caritas India is doing to respond to the flood emergency that has devastated the states of the north-east and Kerala.
It is estimated that at least 1,064 villages in 21 districts are under water, with houses swept away by the torrential rains of the monsoon period, and that about 650 thousand people were left with nothing. Speaking to AsiaNews Fr. Paul Moonjely, executive director of Caritas, said: "We have already provided immediate assistance to 3,925 families and in short we plan to reach 15,425, and even beyond".
The priest explains that the population "is desperate. Anguish is visible in their eyes. Here, most of them live day to day as an agricultural laborer or in tea plantations, so they have lost all means to live". There are about 40 volunteers at work. "When we arrived - he continues - we found a devastated territory. Houses partially or completely damaged, people forced to live outdoors or at relatives' homes. The biggest danger comes from the fact that people use contaminated water to drink, wash and cook. "
The States most affected by storms are those of Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur and Kerala. Violent rains have flooded roads and highways, cut electricity and made the affected areas almost unreachable. According to Fr. Moonjely, "in the north-east of the country, rain is not new. Unfortunately, the suffering is repeated every year ". All "our volunteers - he continues - have received both technical and spiritual training. We educate them on the principles of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, on human and Christian values and on the ministry of the diaconate. We also give them additional notions of humanitarian law. In this way all the operators perform a spiritual and social service and spread the values promoted by the organization ".
The executive director reports that in Tripura "together with local partners JUST (Jan Unnayan Samiti Tripura) and SKS (Seva Kendra Silchar), the humanitarian arm of the Indian Bishops' Conference is distributing first aid material including blankets, clothes, kitchen utensils and mosquito nets. We are also involved in health and personal hygiene through the distribution of a kit that includes soap, detergent, buckets, cups and tea towels. We are creating health camps with the support of doctors and paramedics from the task force of the Camillians and the Franciscan Claretian Congregation in Bhopal and Imphal. The goal is to cure and prevent the spread of diseases related to infected water. We also deliver a food kit to the most needy families containing rice, from [red beans, ed] and foods suitable for children ".
In Assam villages, Catholics plan to distribute 1,400 packages of food and organize 35 health camps, for a total of 3,700 families. In Manipur, together with the Diocesan Social Service Society partner association, Caritas India will bring personal care kits to 2,400 families and food to 600 other families, as well as set up 15 medical services. In Kerala it will establish another 20 temporary clinics and will donate basic necessities to 400 families.
The priest says that people "tried to save what they could before the houses were submerged. In some areas, administrations have stopped supplying electricity to avoid electric shocks. Cell phone batteries were discharged within a few hours, so many regions remained isolated for at least four days as they could not call outside for help. "
From the point of view of local administrations, he adds, "the government really has its hands full and provides assistance where required. Buildings such as schools and high schools are used with their permission to set up medical camps and distribute aid ". In any case, when the emergency is over, he guarantees, "we will not abandon the population and we will not step down our involvement. As always, we will try to balance the work of support with the reconstruction of houses. Then we have several initiatives for disaster prevention".