By Robin Gomes
After heavy lashing by monsoon rains since August 8, southern India’s Kerala state is limping back to normalcy with the rains subsiding since Monday. However, the task of recovery and rehabilitation remains enormous and arduous.
According to Kerala state chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, 223 deaths have been reported and over a million people are staying in 3274 relief camps, of which more than 100,000 are kids below 12 years of age.
As waters recede, the threat of water-born an air-borne diseases loom large with scarcity of clean drinking water and sanitation in relief camps.
Among the numerous organizations, agencies and groups that are currently in engaged in rescue, relief and rehabilitation operations is Caritas India, the social service and humanitarian arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).
Like many groups, Caritas swung into actions since the disaster began unfolding with rains triggering floods and landslides, and roads, bridges and communications being swept away, submerged or disrupted.
Fr. Paul Moongely, the executive director of Caritas India spoke to Vatican News from Caritas headquarters in New Delhi, explaining the immediate urgent needs of the people.
Fr. Moongely said that he current urgent need of the people is food. In this regard aid material and other provisions are pouring in, in response to Caritas appeal. As the waters are receding, every aspect of sanitation needs to be taken care of with sanitation materials, sanitation equipment and dysentery equipment.
Caritas India, Fr. Moongely said, has a very good network in the state of Kerala, with 32 diocesan social work societies and hundreds of religious communities and congregations. Caritas India, the priest said, coordinates this huge response through the diocesan social work societies and the religious communities.
The Church is able to reach out to almost 1 million people, opening the churches, parish halls and other infrastructures of the dioceses and religious communities to accommodate the people in relief camps and provide them relief materials and other support systems.
Caritas to reach 20,000 families
According to a Caritas communique, the Church plans to reach out to 20,000 flood-affected families under the following plan of action:
Food Support: Immediate food support to 20,000 most deserving tribal households in Wayanad, Pathanamthitha, Thrissur and Ernakulam. Each food kit for a household of 5 members includes 10 kg rice, 2 kg daal, 1 kg salt, 1 kg oil, 1 kg soya bean and 4 packets of glucose biscuits.
“Cash for Work” scheme to clean the debris: Immediate “Cash for Work” scheme intends to to support 10,000 households from tribal and low earning communities.
Heads of households will be paid Rs 650 per day for 7 days, to help clear the debris. Each week, a family will earn Rs. 4550.
Water, sanitation and sanitation (WaSH) initiative: WaSH kits will be supplied to 10,000 tribal women and girls.
Each WaSH kit includes 1 bucket + lid, 1 plastic mug, 1 bottle Savlon antiseptic lotion, 5 bathing soaps, 4 washing soaps, water purifying tablets, 1 tube of tooth paste, 5 tooth brushes, markin cloth, and coloured cloth.
The WaSH initiative also creates awareness about the importance of clean water, hygiene and sanitation.
Shelter support: In the long term, a special house plan will be made based on the locally available materials. The estimated cost each shelter is Rs. 80,000 – 90,000 .