The Catholic Church in the Philippines has activated local diocesan social action offices as emergency response centers to aid quake-hit communities in Mindanao.
The social action arm of the bishops’ conference has allocated an initial amount of US$20,000 to provide emergency relief packs for the “underserved” victims of the disaster.
Father Edwin Gariguez, head of Caritas Philippines, said they are gathering more support to allow long-term humanitarian response in the southern part of the country.
“We will see to it that we deliver the necessary aid to the affected communities,” he said, adding that a team has been deployed to assess the urgent needs of the people.
The series of earthquakes that hit the provinces of Cotabato and Davao del Sur last month killed at least 22 people and affected about 27,923 families in 17 municipalities and one city.
Over 21,000 houses were totally destroyed while 7,200 were partially damaged. At least 870 schools, which are also used as evacuation centers, are damaged.
Education department officials said that about 3.4 million children in the disaster-stricken region are affected because either the school buildings were damaged or are being used as temporary shelters.
Father Gariguez appealed to church institutions and other social action offices in dioceses that were not affected by the earthquake to “send their help and prayers.”
The Manila Archdiocese has sent US$3,000 to help the social action centers of the dioceses of Kidapawan and Digos, which have ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the affected communities.
“While we are facilitating an emergency response to help the victims cope with the situation, we have to plan for a long-term program to help them get back on their feet,” said Father Gariguez.
The priest urged humanitarian aid providers to also focus on the “psychosocial first aid needs” not only for the affected families but also for emergency responders.
He said they are coordinating with other faith-based organizations that are extending aid to evaluate the areas that are either underserved or over-served.
“We will not leave one affected family behind, that’s why we are doing our best to coordinate with other humanitarian aid actors and the government,” said Father Gariguez.