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Caritas India struggles to respond to Kerala flood crisis

By Cian Molloy - 21 August, 2018

In the space of three weeks, Kerala received 30 per cent more rain than it would normally receive in the space of a year – and the rainy season isn't over yet.

Floods in south-west India have caused widespread devastation.

A once-in-a-century flood event in south-west India has left Caritas India struggling to cope.

The flooding in Kerala, a state lying on the Malabar coast of western India, is believed to be the worst since 1924. In the space of three weeks, the region received 30 per cent more rain than it would normally receive in the space of a year. Worse still, the rainy season is set to continue until November.

The floods have caused widespread misery and devastation. So far, around 350 people have been killed. More than 650,000 people have been displaced, and many are now living in relief camps. Drinking water is in short supply. Roads and railways have been washed away, which is hampering relief efforts.

The long-term outlook for the region is grim. It is likely that farmers, daily wage workers and agricultural labourers will not earn anything for the next two to three months.

Caritas India is working with 31 social service partners, providing assistance in Wayanad, Kottayam, Changanacherry, Punalur, Vijaypuram, Kothamangalam, Verapoly, Palai, Mavelikara, Cochin and Thamarassery. The Indian organisation, founded in 1964, is one of the smallest in the Caritas network of 160 Catholic relief organisations across the globe, but Caritas India is working hard to use its limited resources in the best way possible.

Already the charity has released Rs 61 lakhs (equivalent to €78,189) for immediate relief operations and RS 1 crore (equivalent to €124,900) has been lined up for further efforts, says Jaimon Joseph from Caritas India. “Caritas India is the social service arm of the Catholic Church in Kerala,” he said. “Like we always have for the past 56 years, we’re rushing to the aid of our countrymen, irrespective of their religion, caste, creed or colour.”

Over the next few days, Caritas India is planning on helping 20,000 beleaguered families with food support, a cash-for-work scheme and water sanitation and hygiene kits (known as “WaSH” kits).

Households receiving food support will receive, per family of five, 10kg rice, 2kg daal, 1kg salt, 1kg oil, 1kg soya beans and four packets of glucose biscuits.

The cash-for-work scheme is aimed at tribal and low-earning communities, with heads of households paid Rs650 (about €8) per day to help clear debris. Caritas India is also working to provide shelters for those who have lost their homes.

Mr Joseph said Caritas was calling on brother and sister Catholics to come to the aid of the relief organisation, and he appealed especially to the overseas Indian community for help.

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