Catholic Relief Services and Caritas have reached more than 700,000 persons in nearly 600 villages in Orissa with 6,000 metric tons of food aid donated from the US Government.
"It will take them 10 years to recover from this disaster," explained Will Lynch, Country Representative for Catholic Relief Services in India. An estimated 20,000 persons died in the Supercyclone in Orissa, eastern India. The bodies of 10,000 have been recovered; most of the individuals who died were poor subsistence fishermen and migrant farmers from the lowest castes of Indian society. More than 300,000 head of livestock were lost. Approximately 1.3 million houses were damaged or destroyed. Three million farmers and fishermen have lost their means of making a living.
Orissa Continues to Rebuild
Catholic Relief Services continues to help the people of Orissa recover from the cyclone and floods that struck in October 1999. This is the second phase of relief assistance, following the initial emergency relief phase. Catholic Relief Services, in coordination with Caritas, distributed household recovery packages to more than 45,000 families. Each family received food rations including vegetable seeds, blankets, plastic sheeting, hand tools, clothing and cooking utensils. Each village received several watering cans for cultivation during the dry season. In addition, over 200,000 victims were granted 10 to 15-day emergency rations following the fires, cyclones and floods.
Catholic Relief Services has committed $500,000 of its privately donated funds and has raised $1.1 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the Orissa emergency. Catholic Relief Services and its local partners are planning agriculture rehabilitation efforts in Orissa. A rehabilitation program will include sanitizing contaminated wells, distributing fishing nets and tools, and the construction of cyclone shelters and cyclone proof housing.
The agency distributed more than 27,000 household and vegetable seed kits provided by the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. Catholic Relief Services also provided another 15,000 household and seed kits with private funds.
Catholic Relief Services is working with over 80,000 rural farmers to improve their household food security by using natural resource management methods to increase crop production. The agency and its partners are working towards a watershed management approach in conjunction with the introduction of high yield seeds and tree crops. Catholic Relief Services is confident this approach, coupled with worker training, will motivate communities and produce a positive change in the community at large.
Additionally, the agency continues working on a program that will supply fishing nets and rowboats to several hundred families of coastal and inland fishermen. Their boats were smashed and nets were lost during the cyclone and tidal wave. They often exist on the fringes of society and the economy. Many are too poor to replace the equipment and their subsistence existence precludes them from credit. CRS committed $130,000 in private funds for this program.
Catholic Relief Services has been working in India for more than 50 years. The agency has a total of five offices in the country, located in Delhi, Lucknow, Calcutta, Hyderabad, and Mumbai.