Christian Agencies Respond to Flood Crises in Asia, Brazil

( [email protected] ) Jan 18, 2011 07:09 AM EST

With Sri Lanka facing its worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami, Christian aid agencies are providing emergency relief to those affected by the heavy monsoon rains.

Caritas Internationalis is supporting some 100,000 people suffering from flooding in Sri Lanka.

“Some areas are difficult to access and people are trapped there. Rivers are overflowing, dams [are] breaking and the main roads can’t be used,” reports Fr. George Sigamoney, secretary general of Caritas Sri Lanka.

More than one million people have been affected in the worst-hit districts of Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Amparai in the east. But rains have also caused problems in the north and central regions of the country.

The U.N. estimates that 390,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, while at least 37 people have been killed.

The torrential rain is already starting to undo some of the progress made in the country’s recovery since the recent end of the civil war.

“In the northeast hundreds of farmers had started to cultivate their fields again after the war. But these efforts are turning to be futile as the rains continue to lash the rice growing areas,” explained Fr. Sigamoney.

“A lot of houses from our shelter programs have been damaged in the floods as well.”

The aid agency warned that even some of the temporary camps set up for flood victims have been overwhelmed with water.

The Catholic aid agency has launched an appeal to help send food packages containing rice, flour, sugar, soap and other essential items to victims, and about 850 displaced families are to receive shelter materials.

U.K.-based Christian Aid has listed Sri Lanka as one of its areas of concern. It has allocated nearly $80,000 to local partner OfERR, which is planning to distribute food, bedding, clothing, and other essentials to 25,000 people.

Meanwhile, World Vision observed that with no sign of the rain halting, even more people are expected to need help in the coming days.

“This is one of the worst natural disasters to hit the country in recent times,” remarked Suresh Bartlett, World Vision Sri Lanka’s national director.

“There is devastation everywhere, many communities have lost their livelihoods and are desperately in need of food, water and other relief items.”

In addition to Sri Lanka, Christian Aid has also designated the Philippines as an area of concern. Flooding in recent weeks in the Philippines have killed more than 40 people and affected an estimated one million. The aid agency has also allocated nearly $80,000 to provide food, cooking utensils, personal hygiene kits and medicines to those affected by the flooding.

Torrential rain has also affected Brazil, where more than 500 people have been killed. Heavy rain triggered floods and mudslides that have in some places washed away entire neighborhoods.

The Bishop of Petropolis told the secretary general of Caritas Brazil, Maria Cristina dos Anjos, that there was “total chaos” in his area.

“People urgently need drinking water, food and hygiene articles. Many have lost their homes,” said the Caritas Brazil representative.

Local churches in Brazil have opened their doors to shelter some of the people left homeless by the landslides. But more needs to be done to improve the living conditions of poor people in Brazil, said Anjos.

“As usual, the poorest are the worst affected in this disaster,” she said. “Those who live in makeshift homes and who out of poverty have to settle in high risk zones are particularly vulnerable. More prevention could have saved many lives in this disaster.”