By Robin Gomes
Caritas India, the relief and development arm of the Catholic Church in the country, is collaborating with its local partners in various dioceses to bring relief to millions of people affected by the floods and landslides caused by heavy monsoon rains.
Father Paul Moonjely, executive Director of Caritas India, told Vatican News that they are collaborating with the local diocesan social service units in the various states hit by the floods.
Citing figures by the Emergency Response Centres, he said that nearly 17 million people in 11 states of India have been affected. The latest death toll stood at 842 while 6 million people lost their crops and livelihood.
Appeal by Indian bishops
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has made an appeal to the faithful, institutions, congregations and people of goodwill “to contribute generously to this humanitarian call and express the solidarity at this crucial moment ".
CBCI president, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, made the appeal, expressing the solidarity of the Catholic Church for those affected, and offered prayers and condolences to who have lost their loved ones.
“Caritas India is coordinating with the state governments and disaster response agencies to assess the situation,” the cardinal said, adding, “Our timely assistance will help meet the needs of the affected and reduce the sufferings of our brothers and sisters in different parts of the country.”
“There would be a huge need emerging to rebuild the lives of the people and communities with rehabilitation and restoration of livelihoods.”
The worst affected states are Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Bihar, Assam, Meghalya and Tripura. Other states, such as Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Haryana have also been hit.
According to the India Meteorological Department, India received 10% more rainfall than the 50-year average in the week to Aug. 21. Overall, India has received 2% more rain than average since the start of the monsoon season on June 1.
Reaching out to people through dioceses
Caritas India oversees a network of 174 social service partners at the diocesan level, carrying out relief, development and rehabilitation work at the local level, including in emergency situations.
Fr. Moonjely said these diocesan units reach out to the flood-affected people, providing them food, water, sanitation, healthcare and other means of survival at emergency shelters.
In this regard, Fr. Moonjely spoke about the Caritas Samaritans, a volunteer team of Caritas India, that works alongside Caritas’ diocesan partners in reaching out the people in difficulties.
The last phase, according to the priest, will be to rehabilitate the people, providing them with temporary as well as permanent homes and restoring their means of livelihood.