Another scene of devastation is unfolding in Southeast Asia as residents of the Philippines assess the damage of Super Typhoon Haiyan. The storm, which was equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane, is estimated to have killed at least 10,000 people and destroyed 200,000 homes. As of Nov. 12, however, much of the extent of the devastation still wasn’t known, and relief organizers feared the estimated number of fatalities only will grow.
What is known, though, is that in this particularly vulnerable part of the world, Filipinos need help picking up the pieces. The storm, which packed 195-mph winds, hit land with the impact of a tornado just four weeks after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake rocked the central part of the archipelago. The October disaster alone destroyed nearly 9,000 homes and damaged another 26,000.
With emergency supplies already depleted following the earthquake, the biggest need after the typhoon has been for food and water. Though relief agencies like Caritas Internationalis and the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Relief Services began mobilizing aid even before the storm struck, the country’s already difficult-to-navigate streets were made even more impassable by debris and, horrifyingly, human remains. The obstruction made it difficult for aid workers to get help to the worst areas of devastation. In the hard-hit city of Tacloban, a chapel became a makeshift morgue as the dead were collected off the streets.
As we thank God for his goodness, let’s especially remember those in the Philippines and elsewhere who are without the basic necessities of life.
Shortly after the typhoon hit, Pope Francis sent his condolences and assurances of prayers via a telegram signed by Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. In it, he expressed “heartfelt solidarity” with the people affected.
“He is especially mindful of those who mourn the loss of their loved ones and of those who have lost their homes,” Archbishop Parolin wrote. “In praying for all the people of the Philippines, the Holy Father likewise offers encouragement to the civil authorities and emergency personnel as they assist the victims of this storm. He invokes divine blessings of strength and consolation for the nation.”
The pope also encouraged both concrete and prayerful assistance for our suffering brothers and sisters. He, too, sent $150,000 to the Philippines through the Pontifical Council Cor Unum for human and Christian development. The Catholic bishops in the Philippines called for a novena of charity and prayer, and the U.S. bishops, as they convened in Baltimore, discussed their own contribution to the cause.
Our Sunday Visitor wholeheartedly echoes these pleas for prayers and monetary assistance. According to CRS, a donation of just $8 provides a family in need with a water kit. Fifteen dollars equals an emergency shelter kit. And $22 provides supplies for the household, such as blankets, utensils, plastics, sleeping mats and a cooking pot. Other Catholic organizations accepting donations include Cross Catholic Outreach and Catholic Medical Mission Board.
As those of us in the United States prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, we naturally take stock of our many blessings. We gather around the dinner table with family and friends, often taking for granted the roof over our heads, and the clean food and water at our disposal. As we thank God for his goodness, let’s especially remember those in the Philippines and elsewhere who are without the basic necessities of life. Let our prayers of thanksgiving join with prayers of supplication for the relief of their suffering, and for their healing and peace.