Monday, August 20, 2007

Earthquake: Initial Response Widens

Emergency relief work continues to be our priority in areas close to the epicentre of the earthquake. Our objective is to identify and reach areas where help has not yet come. Time is of the essence for people who have no water and food.

Yesterday the Diocesan team opened a new base in Guadalupe to the north of Ica and over 5,000 people received their first full meal in several days. Food, water and medicine continue to be the priority as well as tending to the injured.
Today the team will open another soup kitchen in San Juan Bautista, a district of 15,000 people again near Ica. Only established and registered soup kitchens can receive food from the national food agency PRONAC, so our strategy is to enable and equip such kitchens, register them with the food agency, and organise them so as to continue under the direction of local people.
The Diocesan aid work is being directed by the Rev Jaime Siancas, the Deacon of our NGO "Communion-Peru".

Another ministry opportunity we are responding to is to support the injured who have been brought from the south to Lima’s hospitals. Many of them were brought in on stretchers with no personal belongings. We are providing food, clothing, medicines, prayer and counsel, and when the time comes transport back to their families. This is being led by Ericka Montoya, our Social Worker, and women of AMA (MU) from our parishes, with the support of the clergy.

Yesterday there were collections of food, water, clothing, blankets in our parishes and missions. Anything that can be of use to the victims was gathered and will be sent down in the coming days.

We had an excellent meeting yesterday morning with sister organisations ECLOF, the Presbyterian Church (PECUSA) and ASIPO to coordinate our work and resources.
We are working with ASIPO in the field and they are strengthening the team with professional workers such as nurses, social workers and community workers. They have excellent contacts with the government and helped us with the transport of food and other supplies.
Tomorrow I have a meeting with the relief agency Caritas with the hope of accessing large quantities of food in the affected areas. These supplies will not be available for several days more, and in the meantime we are using our own transport, which is costly and limited.
We are greatly impressed by Peru’s Civil Defence force. Its professionalism and organisation has been remarkable. The Diocese and our NGO “Communion-Peru” have registered with them as agencies involved in the overall aid effort. They have a record of all that is being done and will direct registered organisations to areas where help has not yet arrived.

The whole relief operation is being complicated by disorder, robbery and looting. There is great nervousness about the presence of unidentified strangers and the transportation of goods is almost impossible without army escort. Darkness is giving cover to gangs who loot houses and rob families of the little they still have.

Our grateful thanks goes to our friends and sister churches from many parts of the world for your spontaneous and generous gifts. Thank you for all you are doing and for your prayers and giving. Without them our part in this response would be greatly reduced. You are enabling us to go into areas where help has so far not arrived with a minimum of fuss and red tape. As funds come in we shall be able to increase our efforts.

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