Huge numbers of poverty-stricken need help
A priest in the Philippines is asking Australians for prayers and support as he helps to provide for the one million families devastated by three deadly typhoons to hit the country within a month.
Father Tony Labiao Jr, spokesman for the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines, told The Catholic Weekly that 912,900 families had been affected by the latest string of tropical storms and typhoons.
They include the strongest typhoon since 2013 and the biggest floods since 2009.
Caritas and its partners are responding to the aftermath of Typhoon Vamco (also called Ulysees), which struck the Philippines on 11 November as it was reeling from Typhoon Quinta and Super Typhoon Goni, the most powerful storm this year.
Severe flooding has submerged towns up to 12 metres deep across the Cagayan region in the country’s north, leaving tens of thousands of families trapped without electricity, clean water or road access.
Locals say the catastrophic flooding in Cagayan Valley was partly the result of years of quarrying, logging, mining and unsustainable farming practices.
“We’re very grateful for your help, your prayers, your moral support and solidarity and especially for financial support”
– Father Tony Labiao Jr
Nearly 70 people were killed and more than 170,000 people have been affected by Typhoon Vamco with around AUD$2.8 million of damage to agricultural land.
Before that, Super Typhoon Goni affected more than 402,000 people and forced families into evacuation centres where there is greater risk of spreading COVID-19.
“In the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela there is much devastation with families needing food, water, medical supplies, shelter and provision for hygiene and sanitation,” said Fr Labiao. “We are also mindful of security needs, particularly for children and women.”
With support pledged by Caritas Australia, Fr Labiao said work will begin on rebuilding permanent homes and livelihoods, especially in the Catanduanes province in the country’s south.
Fr Labiao said he estimates the recovery effort will take about three years and thanked the many Australians who have been following the situation so far.
Caritas Australia is already channelling support through church and NGO partners delivering emergency aid on the ground in the form of food, fresh water, clothing, hygiene kits, sleeping kits and shelter repair materials.
“We’re very grateful for your help, your prayers, your moral support and solidarity and especially for financial support to rebuild the lives of our people especially in the area of shelter and livelihoods,” Fr Labiao said.
“Hopefully we can nurture our partnership and solidarity, because together we will be people who can weather these disasters that hit the country every year. Anyone with relatives or friends here in the Philippines, please continue to contact them, to pray for them and offer moral support and help because it means so much.”
Pope Francis has also offered prayers for those hit by the calamities and called for help with assistance efforts.
Donate to Caritas Australia’s Asia Emergency Appeal at caritas.org.au or by calling 1800 024 413 toll free.
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