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Catholic Church Q and A on the Philippines and Typhoon Haiyan
By US Catholic Church
Feb 1, 2014 - 2:15:33 AM

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Following are FAQs to provide background for the Feb. 1-7 trip of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz and others to Philippines to visit area struck by Typhoon Haiyan (Source: Catholic Relief Services)

1. What are the areas struck by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) and what is the state of need in the Philippine storm-struck areas now?

Path of Destruction

Areas Affected by Typhoon Haiyan

With a speed of 195 mph, Typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda in the Philippines) has affected an estimated 14 million people in 9 regions of the Philippines and, according to the Philippine government, resulted in 6,201 deaths, 28,626 injuries, 1,785 missing persons and the displacement of over 4 million individuals. The region most significantly affected is Region VIII (Samar and Leyte islands) where the humanitarian need for emergency and early recovery support remains very high.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is responding to needs on both Leyte and Samar Islands (see map at the bottom). The delegation will visit CRS' programs on Leyte Island in the area around Palo, which is about 11 kilometers south of the city of Tacloban.

The State of Need

The National Disaster and Risk Recovery Management Council (NDRRM) estimates that more than 1.1 million homes were damaged by the typhoon, including 550,928 that were completely destroyed.

Shelter assistance continues to be the one of the strongest needs as families rebuild their lives, as well as restoring people's incomes. Because the spread of disease is always a concern in the aftermath of a major disaster, clean drinking water, hygiene and sanitation are also a strong need for survivors of the typhoon. And, because there is so much debris left by both the high winds and waves, clearing away debris is essential for recovery.

2. Are there particular needs for the Church, such as churches, seminaries, Catholic schools, Catholic hospitals, etc.

Many churches and other Catholic-owned buildings were damaged by Typhoon Haiyan. In the city of Palo, which is one of the areas where CRS is working, Archbishop Du has asked one of his priests to make a report on the levels of damage, so the extent of damage in the Palo area will be more fully known and recorded soon. Meanwhile, the Church is operating as best it can. Despite damaged buildings, parishes started celebrating Mass soon after the typhoon hit. In Palo, Sacred Heart Seminary, which was badly damaged, has restarted classes.

3. Has CRS prioritized needs? If so, what are the priorities?

Shelter--now and long term: CRS has provided 44,115 tarps that families can use as a roof for damaged homes, or as a cover for A-frame emergency homes made from salvaged wood, coconut lumber and other materials. CRS is training carpenters to work with community members to build A-frame houses and supplying them with essential carpentry tools including saws and hammers. The agency will soon begin to support permanent housing that use local materials, as well as corrugated iron sheets to construct similar A-frame homes of more durable, disaster-resistant materials.

Water, hygiene and sanitation: CRS has installed water bladders and water taps to provide 13,120 people an average of 3.74 liters of drinking water per day; distributed thousands of hygiene kits that include soap, bucket, laundry detergent and water purifying treatments; and conducted hygiene training sessions to prevent the spread of disease.

Debris clearing: CRS is providing cash-for-work opportunities for people to clear the piles of debris and earn an income.

Income recovery: More than one-third of the Philippines' labor force depends on agriculture for income. With land and crops devastated, CRS will help people recover agricultural and fishing assets and develop long-term profitable options.

4. Why should the Philippines be of particular concern to the Catholic community?

The Philippines is the most Catholic country in Asia, with an estimated 80 percent of the population adhering to Catholicism. It is the third largest Catholic country in the world, after Brazil and Mexico. The Philippines are of particular concern to U.S. Catholics because the United States has the largest Filipino population outside of the Philippines, with an estimated four million Filipinos living in the U.S. They comprise the second largest Asian American group in the U.S. after Chinese Americans.

5. How much money have U.S. Catholics already donated to storm relief in the Philippines?

Through mid-January, donations to CRS reached almost $27 million from individuals, parishes, dioceses and organizations. Following a call for special collections in November, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) received from dioceses $7.2 million for humanitarian relief and church rebuilding, and an additional $2.9 million for humanitarian aid alone.

6. What are the benefits of a fact-finding trip?

Typhoon Haiyan may be the largest storm ever to make landfall. While we can read about and hear the stories of what happened, it is difficult to comprehend the level of destruction and impact on people's lives without actually visiting with churches and families who were affected physically, emotionally and spiritually. If you want to be informed, you can read about what happened. If you want to be moved, changed and directly impacted by what happened, you need to meet with people whose lives have been forever changed by a major catastrophe. This is beyond a fact-finding trip. It is a chance for Church leadership in the U.S. to stand with and support the Church in the Philippines, to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are in need.

7. Has Pope Francis addressed the issue of the Philippines?

Pope Francis holds in high importance people dealing with the aftermath of a major disaster. On November 10, two days after the typhoon struck, Pope Francis led tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square in prayer for survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. "I wish to express my closeness to the people of the Philippines and that region that has been hit by a terrible typhoon. Unfortunately the victims are many and the damage is enormous," he said. He added: "Let us try to get our concrete aid" to survivors.

Pope Francis made an initial donation of $150,000 from the Pontifical Council Cor Unum for relief efforts. A Vatican statement said the donation is intended as "a concrete expression of the pontiff's spiritual closeness and paternal support for the people and territories devastated by the floods."

In his December Christmas message, Pope Francis prayed again for the Philippines, saying, "Help and protect all the victims of natural disasters, especially the beloved people of the Philippines, gravely affected by the recent typhoon."

In January, he sent Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of Cor Unum, to the Philippines to visit the typhoon-struck areas and to donate money to help in rebuilding.

Cardinal Sarah's visit, January 26-31, was to include meeting with Filipino bishops and with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III. It also was to include a visit to the area of Tacloban, which was most severely affected by the typhoon.

Cardinal Sarah was to present in the name of the pope and through Cor Unum a plan for the building of an orphanage and a rest home for the elderly.

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