BALTIMORE — U.S. bishops gathered at their fall general assembly in Baltimore were asked to hold a special collection for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which has caused devastation in Southeast Asia.
The number of fatalities has been estimated at 10,000 in the Philippines, where Typhoon Haiyan — one of the most powerful storms in recorded history — struck on Nov. 8.
However, Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, said reports on the ground suggest that this is “probably a very low estimate” because some areas are still inaccessible, and the damage there has not yet been assessed.
It is expected that 3 million people will be “very displaced” in the aftermath of the storm, and more than 9 million are believed to have been affected by the storm, she told the U.S. bishops, assembled on Nov. 11 for their annual fall meeting.
Catholic Relief Services is establishing three regional offices in the devastated areas. The organization has pre-committed $20 million in aid, prior to raising the funds, because there is a critical need for supplies. Compounding the devastating effects of the typhoon, the country was struck by an earthquake last month, and many supplies were depleted from that disaster.
In the coming days, Catholic Relief Services will work to offer shelter, hygiene and sanitation kits and “cash for work” debris-removal program. The agency’s goal is to serve 100,000 families, some 500,000 people. Its representatives will also be meeting with the bishops of the Philippines and considering long-term rebuilding efforts in the nation.
Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., chairman of the board for Catholic Relief Services, asked his fellow bishops to consider taking up a special second collection for victims of the storm in the Philippines and Vietnam. The funds will be used both for imminent humanitarian needs and long-term rebuilding.