Cyclone Pam Disaster Relief

On March 15th, Cyclone Pam, a Category 5 storm, has devastated Vanuatu—leveling thousands of homes, knocking out power and water, destroying crops and leaving 82,000 children in need of humanitarian aid. CRS staff are on the ground in Vanuatu working to assist families and children with their immediate needs. The UN in Vanuatu says 24 people have died and 3,300 are displaced after Cyclone Pam hit the Pacific archipelago early on Saturday.  The UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team in the capital, Port Vila, said 37 evacuation centers had been set up, but communication with outer islands was still down. President Baldwin Lonsdale said the storm had "wiped out" all development of recent years. Our Winona Diocese has partnered and supported the Vanuatu Diocese in the past.

Deacon Chris Walchuk has kept us informed through our Social Concerns arm of Catholic Charities. We are told that our best course in supporting Vanuatu is to promote the efforts of Catholic Relief services.  CRS is currently very active in supporting the people of Vanuatu.  They are coordinating their efforts with Caritas Australia, the agency which has taken the lead on disaster relief during this crisis. The people of Vanuatu have a great fear that, because the death toll was so low, the world will ignore them.  100% of the gardens on Vanuatu were destroyed by the cyclone, and the gardens are the primary source of food in the nation.  CRS, along with Caritas Australia and other agencies, is supplying seeds for replanting, but harvest will be three to four months away.  There is currently less than a one-month food supply in the nation.

CRS is leading the effort for fundraising  in the United States to bridge the two-to-three month gap in food supplies.  CRS has the technical expertise and the experience to make sure that all aid will be properly routed to the areas of greatest need.  The USCCB has not asked us to designate a special collection, but to support the efforts of CRS.  Encouragement to support the Rice Bowl and to donate online to CRS would be helpful to the people of Vanuatu.