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News of Church World Service Response Following the India Earthquake
CHURCHES RESPOND WITH HOT MEALS, DRINKING WATER, BLANKETS

FOREIGN DESKS: Please share the following contact information with your correspondents in India/Pakistan:

CASA (Churches’ Auxiliary for Social Action): Rachna Building, 2 Rajendra Place, Pusa Road, New Delhi, 110 008, India; Telephone (91-11) 571-5498 or 5538; e-mail: casa@del6.vsnl.net.in or casa@ndf.vsnl.net.in

Marvin Parvez, Church World Service/Pakistan: 74 Garden Road, Saddar-Karachi 74400, Pakistan; Telephone (92-21) 721-5604; Fax (92-21) 722-6055; e-mail at Marvin@cyber.net.pk

NOTE: Funds for humanitarian response in India and Pakistan following the earthquake may be sent to:

Church World Service, Attn. India Earthquake
P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515
Phone Pledges/Credit Card Donations: 1-800-297-1516 x222
On-Line Contributions: www.churchworldservice.org

January 29, 2001, NEW YORK CITY – Hot meals, fresh water and blankets are among the contributions Christians in India, Pakistan and around the world are making to survivors of the January 26 earthquake in India’s western state of Gujarat, on the border with Pakistan.

As its first contribution to a multi-million dollar global ecumenical relief effort, Church World Service, part of the (U.S.) National Council of Churches, is expediting $75,000 in CWS Blanket Funds, which will provide blankets for 15,000 survivors in Gujarat. The blankets will be distributed by CWS’s long-time and well-respected partner in India, the Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA).

CWS is also immediately providing $50,000 to CWS Pakistan for blankets, ground sheeting and plastic tarp for 1,000 families in the Mirpurkhas division of Sindh Province, Pakistan, just across the border from India and some 50 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake. These families are the rural poor who live in remote areas and have lost their homes and livelihoods. They also live in an area affected by severe drought and populated by religious and ethnic minorities.

CASA, Lutheran World Service-India and the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of India all are active in the relief efforts in Gujarat. More than six relief teams already are working in different parts of the state, including the major population centers of Ahmedabad and Bhuj. Their priority in the coming days is to reach out to remote communities so far not reached by the relief efforts.

These three India church groups, Church World Service and some 200 other Protestant and Orthodox church and aid agencies are part of a global alliance of mutual support, called Action by Churches Together (ACT).

The Geneva-based alliance’s moderator, the Rev. Christian Balslev-Olesen, will be visiting the earthquake-affected areas beginning January 31. He will use the opportunity to consult with all three ACT India members and to help with assessments, planning and formulation of a coordinated ACT response to this huge disaster.

CASA, a long-standing and well-respected ACT member and CWS partner, is serving warm meals and distributing water and blankets in Ahmedabad, Mehsana and Bhuj, CASA Director J.K. Michael confirmed.

"Stunned survivors are living in the open, panicking as more than 180 aftershocks have been felt throughout the state," he said. Shortages of power, water, essential supplies, medical aid and other necessities are among challenges to the relief effort.

"Our initial plans are to start distribution of cooked food, drinking water, blankets for protection against the severe cold in the region and tarpaulins for shelter for at least 35,000," Michael said. CASA will follow with cooking utensils, food, clothes and other basic relief items.

Mr. Bhattacharya, a Lutheran relief worker deployed to Gujarat on behalf of the broader ecumenical community, reported, "I could not believe my eyes. Bhuj and many villages around it are completely flattened. Among the most immediate needs for the survivors are drinking water and shelter. Many wells have simply collapsed; in others sweet water has turned salty because of shifts in the water levels during the earthquake."

A medical team sent by the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of India has arrived and will join relief efforts. The Lutheran World Federation also has several bore hole drilling teams on standby for restoring crucial water supplies once roads open and areas become accessible.

International members of ACT already have pledged $2 million for the relief efforts in Gujarat, with additional contributions anticipated.

The quake also affected neighboring Pakistan, where at least 12 people were reported killed in the southern province of Sindh, where the population density is much lower than in India, reported CWS Pakistan Director Marvin Parvez. Still, clay houses either collapsed or were severely damaged, he said. In Pakistan, CWS is assessing needs with its local partners in the field, including Lower Sindh Rural Development Association (LSRDA) and Caritas.

Church World Service is part of the (U.S.) National Council of Churches, whose 36 member communions join together in service and witness in more than 80 countries, including the United States.

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