11/10/2014, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Philippines, "still much to be done" one year after Yolanda

Head of national Caritas speaks to AsiaNews. Catholic Relief Services will build 20 thousand housing units within the next three years. The Church, through #ReachPhilippines, has helped over 97 thousand families. On November 15th race of solidarity in Manila. The story of little Mary and her family, still together today thanks to the Catholic support programs.

Manila (AsiaNews) - Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has announced the construction of at least 20 thousand housing units for survivors of the super-typhoon Yolanda, within the next three years. Along with housing, the charitable organization also aims to provide new livelihood opportunities for 9 thousand families affected by the disaster, while ensuring 23 thousand latrines.

Since the early days of the emergency CRS has promoted initiatives to help the people by providing food, basic necessities and temporary housing. Catholic NGO activities were concentrated in the first three months in covering the needs of at least 43 thousand families in Eastern Samar and Leyte.

However, the situation on the ground is more complex and much remains to be done to ensure a future for the victims, explains Jing Rey Henderson, head of the National Secretariat for Social Action - Justice and Peace, Nassa (Caritas Philippines) to AsiaNews.  On April 1 last the program #ReachPhilippines was launched and has so far reached more than 97 thousand families. But this is only the beginning, because according to the plan established by the Nassa Director Msgr. Rolanda J. Tria Tirona it "will last three years" and will cover most of the areas affected by Yolanda.

On 8 November, a national day of prayer was held in memory of the victims sponsored by the Filipino bishops; the bells of over 50 thousand churches, scattered in 89 dioceses in the country, rang at the same time to pay tribute to their memory. On November 16, a meeting of the leaders of Caritas Internationalis will be held in Manila, to take stock of the situation and plan future actions.

Among the many charitable initiatives organized by Nassa there is also a "fundraising race " of 3.5 or 10 km scheduled for November 15 in the capital, followed by a solemn mass for all participants. The money raised will be used to fund the charitable initiatives of Caritas Philippines. We had a "tragic experience," recalls Msgr. Tirona, but "the help of hundreds of organizations and individuals" has ensured a prompt response.

Among the many families who have benefited from the projects of CBCP / Nassa there is also that of the little Mary Faith Echavez, just seven years old. "After Yolanda - she says  - I saw my father collect his things. My mother was crying and I could not understand what was going on. My father left? I was confused ...". The child, already hit by the typhoon, also experienced the trauma of the father leaving and "stopped playing and smiling," says her mother Romila, 37 years. Thanks to the intervention of the section of Jaro Caritas, the family was included in the list of beneficiaries of assistance and recovery programs promoted by the Church, thus guaranteeing a job for her husband and the opportunity to continue to provide for the needs of his wife and two daughters. "I could not ask for more - said Ronald, 38 years - because we now have a house that we can call our own, I have a job and I'm back with my family. God has been so good to us."

Haiyan / Yolanda hit the Visayas island just over a year ago, affecting at least 11 million people to varying degrees, scattered among 574 different cities and municipalities. A return to normalcy will take eight billion dollars. Even today there are over 1,700 missing; the number of victims is higher than 5 thousand, although the government has downplayed the toll and speaks of 2,500 dead.

In recent weeks, the Philippine Church has delivered the first 1600 "permanent" homes part of a larger project that aims to achieve at least 3 thousand housing units by year-end, scattered among nine ecclesiastical provinces hit by the typhoon. The government has instead only completed 364 housing units in Tanauan and Tacloban (Leyte), but the number of displaced people in temporary shelters - scattered in the provinces of Samar, Leyte and Eastern Samar - number more than 20 thousand.

 

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