The devastation has struck the part of country where the Christian minority population resides.
It’s being called the flood of the century. Torrential rains and strong winds over past three weeks have devastated Kerala, India, and its neighboring state Karnataka, where the country’s six million some Christians reside. Over 350 people have been killed since flooding began in June, and more than one million have fled to emergency relief camps.
Heavy rain leading to landslides and flooding continued to lash Karnataka’s Kodagu district too. Located in the Western Ghats mountain ranges, the incessant rain has been causing landslidess across Kodagu, making rescue operations difficult.
Kerala has already received 30% more rain than its annual average; rains in the state often last till November. Over 34 dams are spewing water, 44 rivers are in spate. Twelve of the state’s 14 districts are submerged. 36 locations are battling landslides. Such devastation was last seen in 1924, long before Indian Independence.
Farmers, daily wage workers and agricultural laborers won’t earn anything for the next 2-3 months. Thousands have no homes to go back to, and are in need of food, clothes, beds, mosquito nets, medicines, drinking water supplies and temporary shelters. Sanitation and hygiene has been severely compromised, the risk of epidemics is at an all-time high. After all these needs are met, there is a need for longer-term rehabilitation, reconstruction and livelihood support for affected families.
Scheduled Caste and tribal-dominated areas in Wayanad and Idukki are completely cut off. Caste biases often lead these groups to be ignored even during relief efforts, something not always reflected in media reports. Women, children and the aged are extremely vulnerable in such situations.
Since mid-July, all 31 of Diocesan Social Service Society (DSSS) partners in Kerala have been at Ground Zero in Wayanad, Kottayam, Changanacherry, Punalur, Vijaypuram, Kothamangalam, Verapoly, Palai, Mavelikara, Cochin and Thamarassery, helping affected communities.
A host of relief organizations and government agencies have now made a beeline to the beleaguered state of Kerala. As a member of the United Nation’s Inter Agency Group (IAG), Caritas is co-ordinating with all of them – local and international humanitarian aid agencies, district administrations and local village relief committees.
Caritas India, the Catholic Church’s social arm for humanitarian aid, has already placed an 8-member Team in different parts of Kerala to assess the needs of the local communities and help the Social Development Diocesan Partners of Kerala in conducting the relief operations. Caritas India is supporting 24 affected Dioceses with immediate relief kits with food, drinking water, clothes, utensils and other requirements.
“There is a strong urgency to reach out to more communities who are stranded and isolated in the most remote and unreached villages. Our timely assistance will help meet the needs of the affected and reduce the sufferings of our brothers and sisters of Kerala. There is a huge need emerging to rebuild the lives of the people and communities with rehabilitation and restoration of livelihoods,” said Oswald Cardinal Gracias, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
“On behalf of the Catholic Church in India, I am making this fervent appeal to you, my brothers Bishop and to all in Church leadership, to come together in solidarity and encourage the community of faithful, institutions and people of goodwill to contribute generously to this humanitarian call and express our solidarity at this crucial moment,” Oswald Cardinal Gracias pleaded.
Caritas India is responding to the situation in collaboration with various social service societies to provide solace to the people. Caritas has appealed to all Indians, to join hands for this huge relief operations. In times like this, every second, every rupee counts.
Indian Catholic Matters appeals especially to all Catholics for help, in this hour of dire need. Remember, our Lord said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto me.” And we appeal to the generous-hearted Kerala diaspora, spread out across India and the globe to join Caritas and help alleviate people’s miseries.
Dioceses of Mananthavady, Palakkad, Thalaserry, Irinjalakkuda, Kothamangalam, Idukki, Kanjirappilly, and Pala are putting their united efforts to collect funds for the affected people in Kuttanad. 15 medical camps were already conducted and treated almost three thousand people, another 30-medical camp are underway.
Executive Director, Caritas India Fr.Paul Moonjely announced that additional support will be provided to the flood-affected people in Kerala. Fr.Michale Vettikkatt, Social Apostate Chief Coordinator of Syro Malabar Church and Fr.George Vettikkattil, Director of KSSF also attended the press meet at Kottayam.
If you’d like to fight the good fight, search for Caritas India on Facebook or log onto http://www.caritasindia.org. Or call 011-23363390. And make a small contribution to the cause.
This article was published in partnership with Indian Catholic Matters.