India + 3 more

South Asia: The Caritas Internationalis response to the tsunami disaster - Update: 17 Jan 2005

Total amount of funds available within the Caritas Confederation for the tsunami relief effort: Over 70 million USD


Sri Lanka:
approx. USD 7,110,000
" USD 4,232,000
" USD 6,056,000
" USD 324,000
USD 17,722,000
USD 52,278,000


Confederation members are currently working together in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand assisting those most in need. Immediate relief has come in the form of food, clothing, medicine, medical care, water purification and sanitation, psychological counselling, and other services. Caritas is also working on long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction for affected communities by building homes, restoring livelihoods through the replacement of destroyed fishing boats and nets, and offering cash for work programmes.



Caritas and CRS India started widespread relief operations across the southeastern coasts of the Indian mainland. Priority needs: food, medical supplies, sleeping mats, household kits and water/sanitation.

Goal: Enable 30,000 tsunami-affected families in Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and the Andaman/Nicobar Islands to meet their basic needs and rebuild their livelihoods, through the provision of the above-mentioned items in the immediate humanitarian relief phase (Phase 1, 1-2 weeks).

Phase 2 - Intermediate Resettlement Relief (1-4 months): resettlement of 30,000 displaced families into temporary shelters with household kits and access to clean water and sanitation.

Phase 3 - Livelihood Rehabilitation (3-18 months): help 30,000 affected families to rebuild their livelihoods and strengthen their resilience to future disaster through community-based disaster preparedness methodologies.

Activities include:

* Distribution of: food, medical supplies, mats/sheets/clothing, temporary shelter, household kits

* Water & Sanitation * Household latrines * Village well repair * Provision of fishing boats/nets * Infrastructure rehabilitation

The projected initial appeal budget is approximately 13 million USD.

Members and Partners Present:

Emergency Response Support Team (ERST) India (Tamil Nadu) - Tsunami

After consultations with Caritas India, the Caritas Europa Humanitarian Aid Commission and CRS nominated and accepted members of an ERST to be sent from Caritas Germany, Caritas Austria, Caritas India, Caritas Italiana, and CRS.


A veteran Caritas staff member viewed the wreckage along the coastal areas of Indonesia last week and reported to colleagues "This is the most devastating disaster I have ever seen before." This sense of awe at the magnitude of the damage inflicted upon Southeast Asia by the earthquake and tsunami of 26 December is echoed by foreign and local relief workers alike. In the province of Aceh in Indonesia most inhabitants did not survive the natural disaster, and coastal towns suffered complete ruin. Survivors moved inland, where they are receiving assistance from Caritas Confederation members and their partners. The Archdiocese of Medan in the province of Aceh is taking the lead in local relief programme coordination with Catholic Relief Services as the facilitating partner for the Caritas network.

Caritas is providing medical care to the injured and displaced as well as distributing food, temporary shelter, and community-based health activities. Chartered flights are bringing supplies to hard-to-reach areas on a regular basis. The most immediate needs are for soap, disinfectants, and other items for sanitation. Caritas is also assisting a priest and three religious sisters who are housing survivors in a Church compound and working to clean up a school that is littered with debris and bodies.

Indonesian children affected by the disaster are particularly cared for through education programs and treatment for trauma. A Caritas staff member reported that an inordinate number of women and children in the Aceh province were the victims of the tsunami as many of the male members of the household were working farther inland in the paddy fields when the floods swept in.

Caritas communicators accompanying relief workers in Indonesia are sending regular reports from the field posted on the Caritas website's Tsunami disaster section.

Caritas Internationalis has launched an appeal for the tsunami response in Indonesia for over 21 million USD.

Members and Partners Present:

Catholic Relief Services, Trocaire, Cafod, Caritas Austria, Caritas Germany, and Cordaid-Caritas Netherlands; Permanent contacts with JRS for coordination and joint collaboration.

Advocacy: During the 11 January teleconference on Indonesia it was suggested that an advocacy agenda is developed to deal with issues such as restrictions on access, child protection, and religious sensitivities, and that an advocacy sub-committee should be formed. Jesuit Refugee Services will be contacted for consultations as they have already conducted substantial research and analysis on Indonesia. A representative of Trocaire is also conducting research in Indonesia, and her detailed analysis could form the background for a CI advocacy position. Care is required in all advocacy work so as not to jeopardise emergency programs in a delicate environment.


The tsunami hit Thailand's southwestern provinces of Krabi, Phuket, Phangnga, Ranong, Satun and Trang, but the highest number of deaths was in Phangnga. The Surat Thani diocese covers these provinces and nine others. When the tsunamis hit, many people escaped the waves to higher ground or took refuge in government makeshift centers in Phangnga, Krabi and Ranong. For example, it is reported that from Ranong, 1,300 homes were swept into the sea and 27 people killed at Suksamran village, and 500 homes were destroyed in Muangpluang village. Schools and health and social service facilities were also destroyed.

Some survivors have completely lost their houses, while others have lost all their fishing equipment like boats and nets. Others lost all their household belongings and personal usage items. The victims among Thais are the fishermen, shop traders, the entire service personnel like servants, catering people, small vendors, etc. and the relatives who came to visit these families. Besides the personal belongings of people, the common facilities like schools, health centers and places of worship were also affected.

From the beginning CI has been in contact with Caritas Thailand and COERR (the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Thailand). COERR has chosen to focus its attention on the needs of the poor fishing communities affected in the six Southern provinces. They plan to launch a Special Operations Appeal through Caritas Internationalis in order to provide both emergency relief and long term rehabilitation. Assistance will come in the form of psycho-social care, support for housing, and relief supplies.

Initial estimate of funds needed: 1,550,000 USD. Amount requested by COERR SOA: 646,003 USD.

Members and Partners Present: Catholic Commission for Human Development-Caritas Thailand, COERR (Catholic Bishops' Conference of Thailand)


Caritas has dispatched an Emergency Response Support Team (ERST) jointly with the Social Economic Development Center (SEDEC)-Caritas Sri Lanka to assess damage and assist relief work by Confederation members working in Sri Lanka. The ERST will be divided into three groups dealing with three different geographical areas.

Among other tasks, the team assessed the dramatic situation in the diocese of Galle where many families have lost everything in the disaster and are living in close quarters in camps, highly dependent on aid. Over one million people are now living in camps. Schools were destroyed and all equipment was lost. People in this area were highly traumatised, and psychological as well as physical healing are of utmost importance. Many children have been orphaned. The most urgent requirements in the area are food, tents, school equipment, and trauma counselling. Caritas intends to provide fishing equipment, soap, sanitary materials, and clothing in the near future. Food distribution will be necessary for at least two to three months. At the moment it is estimated that there will be approximately 50,000 beneficiary families.

The ERST includes one communicator for each of the three areas covered by the sub-groups of the ERST.

Sedec-Caritas Sri Lanka, with the support of European Caritas reps. and CRS is involved in the following activities:

* Distribution of food, water and clothing

* Financial assistance for families in camps

Next phase: rehabilitation/reconstruction of houses.

Batticaloa: assistance to 3 camps, between 600 and 700 families. Batticaloa hospital received financial support for body bags, burials and medicines. Further assistance is needed in outreach work, medicines and for rehabilitation (shelter and economy).

Members and Partners Present:

Emergency Response Support Team (ERST) Sri Lanka - Tsunami

After consultations with Caritas India, Caritas Europa Humanitarian Aid Comission and CRS the already nominated and accepted members of an ERST to be sent:

Coordination structure:

Secours Catholique -- Caritas France will act as facilitating partner and coordinate the ERST together with SEDEC -- Caritas Sri Lanka.

The team will be divided to work in three different regions:

Region 1 Colombo & Galle

Region 2 Jaffna & Vanni

Region 3 Batticaloa & Trincomalle

Coordination of the work in the three regions will take place though a Coordination Committee headed by SEDEC -- Caritas Sri Lanka / Secours Catholique -- Caritas France.

Confirmed candidates for the ERST include representatives from:

Secours Catholique, Caritas Switzerland, Caritas Belgium, Caritas Austria,

CORDAID, Trocaire, CAFOD, Caritas Bangladesh, CRS, and Caritas Sri Lanka

Advocacy: CI Position Paper on Advocacy for Sri Lanka

Lobby for efficient assistance to tidal wave victims in Sri Lanka

The Island of Sri Lanka is today confronted with a human tragedy caused by the Tsunami tidal waves. There has been considerable human and material loss with more than 31,000 dead. Kilometres of coastal areas have been reduced to rubble, almost all the fishing material of the coastal population is completely destroyed along huge stretches of the northern, north-eastern and southern coastal belt; above all about 800,000 people are homeless. This tragedy has struck both the Singhala and minority Tamil communities. The expression of solidarity by the international community was enormous and the island expressed a sense of national unity in the face of this tragedy.

The tidal waves struck this island, known also as the pearl of the Indian ocean at a moment when the peace talks over the twenty five year of ethnic war undertaken by the LTTE and the government are at standstill and still vulnerable, although these initiatives undertaken by both parties are appreciable.

The Tamil population of the north and north-east as well as the Singhalese have paid a high price during these twenty years of war; This calamity has struck them at a moment when people were preparing and hoping to live in peace.

Before such a massive calamity, the relief and rehabilitation activities towards the poor victims are of high importance and need to be carried out without any delay in the working areas. It is of capital importance to alleviate and relieve the suffering of the people. Humanitarian activities carried out in the north and north-east are proven to be difficult due to a lack of confidence which is yet to be fully restored between the LTTE and the government on one hand and on the other difficulty in working freely and directly with the population in the unoccupied area.

Delays in obtaining authorisation to transport goods from the south to the affected north and north eastern parts, border controls and check points between the south and north as well as border controls and authorisation within the LTTE occupied areas hamper quick expedition of relief goods to the poorest and affected people, hinder efficient response to the needs of the victims. Although the relief operations are carried out without much difficulty in the south, in the north and north east it is a matter of concern. The government and the LTTE at this crucial moment must allow the civil society as one of the partners to carry out the relief activities and facilitate their work. The experience at the initial stage calls for immediate attention on these concerns.

The recent decisions taken to entrust the relief work to the army needs particular attention. The population in the north which has lived twenty five years of war and has suffered a lot, does not welcome this decision which is perceived as a means to occupy their homeland. This is not perceived as a goodwill gesture but on the contrary is a source of mistrust leading to loss of confidence in the state.

Caritas Internationalis as a confederation with its 162 members, has expressed its solidarity by responding massively to the needs of the poor through its local Caritas organizations. It is also concerned by the latest developments and decision in the relief operations and the above concerns. As a faith based organisation interested in the welfare of the poor it calls for the following immediate action :

- An humanitarian path be opened under neutral monitoring in the north and north-east to expedite humanitarian assistance without any delay .

- The NGOs and in particular the faith based organisation must be allowed to work directly with the population without any intermediaries.

- All the necessary aid from the multilateral funds be distributed equitably between the affected regions without any political or ethnic bias and in dialogue with the different stakeholders.

- The present tragedy must enhance the peace process and all steps be taken to continue the process so that a relevant political solution be worked out at the earliest.

Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organisations present in over 200 countries and territories