Nearly a month has gone by since Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines. Amid the devastation, it remains very difficult as you can imagine to get details of how things are progressing but I do want to give you a brief update and tell you about the fantastic response from our supporters in the UK so far.
As the Philippines is a Catholic Country, you would expect the Church to be heavily involved in the response to the crisis. This is in fact the case with volunteers in the Philippines working round the clock to help their brothers and sisters (often literally) get the vital basic aid supplies. As we know this was hampered by the huge impact the Typhoon made on communications (power lines, roads, phone links, etc) but our partners Caritas Philippines and Catholic Relief Services have been able to reach areas which some agencies couldn’t because of trust and respect in which they and the Church generally is held. This has meant that, even in the face of lawlessness, aid has reached remote parts through our networks. This is something to be relieved and joyful about as well as proud.
The scale of the task is immense: 582,000 homes damaged/destroyed with 15% of the Philippine population (13.5m people) affected. Huge numbers are displaced with 4.5m having no access to water and sanitation.
The Chairman of Coordinator’s Trustees Bishop John Arnold is visiting the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan at the moment in the Philippines. He was asked to go on behalf of Archbishop Vincent Nichols, to show solidarity in a time of distress and also represent in some way the 120,000 Filipinos in Britain. With him is Matthew Carter, Humanitarian Director at CAFOD and Jim Murphy MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, and you can get the latest impressions from this twitter feed: @jimmurphymp and watch a video of their visit to Tacloban:
In his eyewitness account, Bishop John writes: “While it has been terrible to witness such destruction, there is an oddly positive feeling in the sheer determination of the people who are just getting on with life despite the setbacks and the tragedies of these weeks. We have been met with smiling faces and a remarkable acceptance that all this has happened and that things must simply start again. We have heard stories of drama and trauma, of people having their homes collapse around them, of lost relatives, of ruined livelihoods – but never a word of anger. All I heard was much repeated gratitude. This was particularly clear when we were at the distribution centre. About 150 families had gathered and registered for their packs. They were full of smiles and thanks for the generosity of those providing the relief. The relief workers we spoke to said that in other places they had witnessed panic and aggression and anger, but not here in the Philippines. When our group was introduced as being from the UK they smiled and waved and some applauded.”
Back here in the UK, the response has also been absolutely fantastic with CAFOD supporters in parishes, schools and individually in huge numbers responding out of compassion to the needs of people at this time. In addition to people responding to the Disaster Emergency Committee Appeal of which CAFOD is a member and which we promote (which has to date reached a fantastic £69m), CAFOD supporters have given a further £2.5m with supporters in Salford diocese giving £148,920.27 from 1,240 separate donations. All extraordinarily generous and still coming in.
CAFOD’s money is getting well used: Robert Cruickshank witnessed volunteers packing 1,800 food packs and hygience kits in just three hours and 19,300 food packs have been distributed across affected dioceses. It’s also paying for tarpaulins and paying people for work clearing the devastation to start the economy again. He said movingly, “People just stand there silently in shock, looking at the matchwood where their house was.”
If you know of someone who hasn’t contributed yet, this news will hopefully encourage them to do so if they can. They can donate via the CAFOD website or by cheque via CAFOD Salford.
Prayer for the people of the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan:
God of compassion and mercy, we turn to you,
we seek your help in our distress.
May we always seek to be a light for others
bringing hope in place of despair.
Pour out, we pray, your consoling love
upon our brothers and sisters in the Philippines.
Bring comfort to those who mourn,
shelter and sustenance to all those in need.
Heavenly Father, you are always with us,
may we never forget your enduring love
which lights our path
even in the darkest times.
St Rose of Lima, pray for us.
St Lorenzo Ruiz, pray for us.
St Pedro Calungsod, pray for us.