By Fr Paul Moonjely, Executive Director, Caritas India
Kerala state in south-western India is only just beginning to recover from the most devastating monsoon floods and landslides in a century. Weeks of unrelenting rain left nearly 500 people dead and affected 5.4 million people.
Caritas India responded quickly, providing food and essentials such as hygiene products to thousands of victims, and now aims to reach more than 40,000 people in the most isolated areas of Kerala, where the poorest and most vulnerable Dalit and tribal people live. Many of them have nothing but the clothes they were wearing.
Immediate needs include food, clothes, beds, mosquito nets, medicines, drinking water and temporary shelters. Sanitation and hygiene has been severely compromised, and the risk of epidemics is extremely high.
But as the floodwaters recede, many people will need longer-term rehabilitation, reconstruction and livelihood support. Thousands have no homes to go back to, and farmers, daily wage workers and agricultural labourers won’t earn anything for the next two to three months.
Caritas India is part of the indigenous aid effort. But it is also part of the Caritas Internationalis aid network, the second largest in the world after the Red Cross, linking my organisation to CAFOD in England and Wales. The strength of Caritas is that it is embedded in the communities where it works; it is not seeking to impose solutions from outside. It goes further, supporting the concept of localisation, which seeks to increase the power of domestic aid agencies to decide how and where aid is given and funds are spent.
Around the world, in poor countries and in rich ones, Caritas organisations promote charity and social justice, advocate for a world of peace and love, and strive for integral human development. They take care of people living on the margins, and seek to improve their lives, so that they can thrive as equal members of the human family.
We think globally and act locally. The common identity, shared vision, and unity in action of this partnership of organisations demonstrates the merciful face of Jesus across the world. We remember what He said: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Mt 25: 40).
Picture: Caritas India.