Philippines typhoon - three months on: 'People turned to the Church'

The role of the Catholic Church in helping stricken Filipinos was hailed today, three months since Typhoon Haiyan hit their islands.

In the last three months, Catholic church agencies have provided support to more than 830,000 people, with CAFOD directly responsible for around eight per cent of that total, as well as providing vital expertise and assistance to other agencies and local partners.

The typhoon that hit the Philippines on 8 November last year was one of the most powerful ever to make land, tearing apart the lives of more than 14 million people.

Since then, the Church has worked tirelessly to get food, water, shelter and emergency supplies to the worst affected areas, as well as starting the process of rebuilding for the future. This work has been generously supported by the Catholic community in England and Wales, with CAFOD’s Philippines Typhoon Haiyan appeal so far raising more than £4.7 million.

Matthew Carter, Head of CAFOD’s Humanitarian team, said: “I was shocked by the level of devastation on Leyte island in the Philippines. Driving west from Tacloban, following the path of the storm, you could see that it had obliterated almost everything.

“But I’m also proud of the work that CAFOD is doing in partnership with our Church partners, who are on the front line of the relief effort. Thanks to the donations of our Catholic community in England and Wales, we have ensured that people have food and safe places to stay, supplied safe drinking water to thousands of vulnerable people, and restored latrines to prevent the spread of disease.”

Across England and Wales, schools and parishes have held a huge variety of fundraising events over the last three months: students at St Peter’s High School in Gloucester raised £2,200 with a 24 hour basketball event, while Our Lady’s Catholic College in Lancaster raised more than £2,500 with a hot dog day, cake sales and non-uniform day.

Father Oscar L Florencio, who has led the Church response to the typhoon in the town of Palo on Leyte island, said: “During the emergency, people turned to the Church. Our Church volunteers were the first responders, providing food, providing emergency supplies. The outpouring of support internationally has been overwhelming. Catholics in England and Wales know that we are their brothers and sisters. They have shown the presence of love, the presence of God. I am really thankful for this show of support and concern for us.”

Matthew Carter said: “I’ve been amazed by how resilient people are in the Philippines, rebuilding their lives. We have a huge amount to learn from people here – from their dignity, their courage and their faith. I’ve been blown away by the ability of the local Church to put that faith into action. It’s been one of the most moving aspects of my career to see how active the Church is in the Philippines, and how it’s providing support to those who need it most.”

Over the next few months, CAFOD will help people who are living in tents or temporary shelters to rebuild their homes. With crops and trees destroyed by the storm, and tens of thousands of fishing-boats severely damaged, the agency will also support people in making a living again.

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