Colombian Earthquake Emergency: UpdateJanuary 2000

Catholic Relief Services' private contributions for the Colombia Earthquake Relief now total over $1.5 million. These donations are being utilized in support of housing repair and reconstruction efforts in coordination with the National Social Ministry/Caritas Colombia and are taking place in the regions most affected by the earthquake.
Over the past two months, construction has begun in Obando, Holguin and Ulloa. A total of 90 homes are currently being built in these three housing sites. Construction is over 60% complete in the regions of Obando and Holguin and nearing 20% completion in Ulloa. All three sites are anticipating a February inauguration by the families, engineers, and CRS Catholic Church partners that have worked together so closely to erect these new communities. Catholic Relief Services plays an important role in this process, along with local agencies and Caritas Colombia. All reconstruction efforts emphasize community organization and participation.

Nelson Parra's Perspective

Mr. Nelson Parra, a young single father, lives in the Diocese of Cartego in a home he inherited from his parents. His home could not withstand the impact the earthquake and was completely destroyed in January of 1998. Parra now works in the township as a Physical Education Teacher who is applying his experience to the CRS/Diocese of Cartego housing project as both a participant and a community motivator. His 4-year-old son, Carlos Andres watches daily as his new home is being constructed. "Being able to have a house of our own is going to be such a radical change after the tragedy of the earthquake, we really appreciate it with all of our heart," said Parra.

Additional Activities

Recently, Catholic Relief Services approved two new housing reconstruction projects in the Municipality of Salento, and Quimbaya in the Diocese of Armenia and their construction is scheduled to begin in February. These projects will support rebuilding in a region where over 30,000 houses were damaged by the earthquake. Further, 100 homes that were damaged during the earthquake will be improved so that families in need can move back in. In addition to the reconstruction, the project will focus on community strengthening and psychological recuperation for the victims of this region.

Background on CRS' Response

The Initial Response:

An Emergency Response Unit was created in the Caritas office in Periera; within the first twenty-four hours after the earthquake CRS/Ecuador-Colombia made an initial commitment of $10,000. The agency also purchased initial relief supplies such as food, water and tents.

The Regional Emergency Unit, in coordination with the Church and other local organizations, conducted a census and established an identification system (names, number of family members, current addresses and ID cards) in order to efficiently and quickly provide families with aid. This data was shared with government officials in order to cross check information and avoid duplication of efforts.

The emergency office of Caritas Colombia in Bogota continues to provide technical support to the Diocesan offices to ensure accountability to donors, control and verification systems at all levels and adequate distribution systems.

Follow-up Response:

Following the initial response, the agency provided an additional $127,000 for emergency assistance. This response targeted 500 primarily rural families who could not be reached by State interventions and also stimulated the local economy and employment by purchasing and contracting locally.

The funds are being used in ongoing efforts by Caritas Colombia to purchase and distribute food, mattresses, blankets, tents and household items to assist people in need.

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