The Caritas is pressurizing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to totally cancel debt for Haiti, a country that was devastated by a 7.0 Richter strong earthquake on January 12, 2010.
While welcoming the IMF's decision to lend earthquake-stricken Haiti US$102 million on highly concessional terms, Caritas expressed disappointed that it would not be possible at the same time to cancel Haiti's outstanding debts to the IMF.
“The appalling images coming out of Port-au-Prince show that it will be many years before Haiti will be in a position to service any international loans. Haiti must be free to heal its wounds, rebuild and reconstruct confident that it is not building up debt obligations in the future. That is why Caritas is joining campaigners from around the world who are calling for immediate debt cancellation,” a situation report from Caritas Kenya on the rescue and recovery processes in Haiti pointed out.
The managing director of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn has given his support to efforts to cancel Haiti's debts and has said that "IMF is now working with all donors to try to delete all the Haitian debt, including our new loan."
The World Bank (owed $39 million) and Inter-American Development Bank (owed $447 million) have also expressed support for debt cancellation; though have yet to formally agree a deal.
“Caritas says the time for debt cancellation is now. Caritas urges the IMF and other donors to ensure that the burden of debt is lifted from Haiti as it struggles to rebuild - a task that will take decades and billions of dollars,” the situation report says.
Debt cancellation would go a long way to try to rebuild the ruined country.
At the same time, Caritas continues to take lead in coordinating the Catholic church response to Haiti disaster.
Following the devastating earthquake, His Holiness the Pope Benedict XVI called for prayers, solidarity and generosity in aid of the victims of the catastrophe.
At Caritas Internationalis headquarters in Rome, an emergency response team led by Humanitarian Director Alistair Dutton was sent to Haiti. Other Caritas staff from members in the USA, Canada, Mexico, and Europe joined to provide extra capacity for staff on the ground.
Immediately after the quake, Caritas is appealed for an emergency appeal of US$ 42 million (Euro 30 million) to provide 200,000 Haiti quake survivors with immediate food, shelter, medical help, and clean water.
Caritas Haiti and the Bishops of Haiti have been leading the Catholic Church’s response to the crisis in Haiti. Caritas Internationalis set up its coordination crisis centre at the Caritas Haiti compound to ensure that all Caritas members worked effectively together under guidance of the national Church in Haiti.
The Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, Archbishop Bernardito Cleopas Auza, hosted a Caritas meeting at the Holy See’s Embassy in Port-au-Prince to look at relief operations and longer term challenges such as education, agriculture, reconstruction and preparing for disasters.
Caritas was in a good position to provide aid to survivors after the earthquake. Caritas Haiti has been working on emergencies, development and social justice for 35 years. It works through 10 diocesan offices, through staff, and parish priests and community volunteers.
In 2008, Caritas Haiti responded to a series of hurricanes providing food rations, cleaning up schools and homes, helping people build shelters, and providing scholarships to children so they could go to school.
In Kenya, the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya, His Excellency Alain Paul Lebeaupin reiterated the Holy Father’s invitation, appealing to all Catholics and people of good will to support the call.
Caritas Kenya and the Kenya Episcopal Conference sent messages of condolence and solidarity to Caritas Haiti and Episcopal Conference of Haiti respectively. Kenya Episcopal Conference also send out an appeal to all people of good will to join hands with all the Catholic Bishops in Kenya for a unified response to alleviate the sufferings of the survivors of this disaster.
Caritas Kenya was mandated to coordinate the response. This appeal was addressed to all Bishops, Religious Congregations and KEC Commissions and Institutions, among others. All collections will be forwarded to His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio for onward facilitation to the Holy See.
This two month international appeal by Pope Benedict XVI will be followed by a longer 12 month reconstruction programme.
Caritas has been working directly in 20 camps, but is also distributing aid through its contacts with priests and religious working in 32 parishes with 150,000 people in need.
Already, Caritas members from 40 countries have collected $ 198 million (Euro 147 million) from private donations for Haiti’s quake survivors. In addition, governments and institutions have pledged $36 million (Euro 27 million) to Caritas for Haiti.
Around $20 million is being used to provide for immediate needs over the next two months.
Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Rodrgiuez said: “We are humbled by the support Caritas has received from around the world. From rich countries in Europe and North America to desperately poor ones like Congo and Somalia, this is a great symbol of solidarity with Haiti as it looks to rebuild anew. We will be a central part of creating a better future for Haitians based on solidarity, hope and love.”
However, efforts will not only be concentrated to humanitarian crisis being experienced currently.
“Experience has shown that in crisis situations such as this, the weaker voices in society, already vulnerable to abuse, become more so – including women, children, the elderly and the infirm. There is need to think beyond simply meeting basic needs – food will not keep communities safe from abuse and water will not protect them from violence. Almost half of the affected population (48%) are children, many of whom are deeply traumatised and alone,” says Mr. Stephen Kituku, the acting National Executive Secretary for the Development, social services/ Caritas Kenya Commission at the Kenya Episcopal Conference Catholic Secretariat.
Over three million people were affected by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti at 16:53 local time on Tuesday 12 January with around 230,000 people over half a million people were made homeless and many people are in makeshift camps and relying on aid agencies for food and water. The quake was the worst in over 200 years.
Over 20,000 commercial buildings and 225,000 homes were destroyed, 800,000 people are homeless and 340,000 people have fled the capital.
Hospitals, schools, government buildings, the United Nations compound, water pipes, electricity cables, communication lines, churches, roads, and the port were all badly damaged or destroyed in the earthquake.
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