Caritas Internationalis: ’empower local communities’

By Vatican News

World Humanitarian Day is annually celebrated on 19 August. It is a day set aside to raise awareness about humanitarian assistance worldwide and to pay tribute to the men and women who risk their lives to provide it.

“On this day, the international community recalls the generosity of heart of thousands of humanitarian workers, of the poor and above all the survivors of the disasters who in hope aspire to live in dignity”, said Aloysius John, Secretary-General of Caritas Internationalis, in a statement issued on the eve of the annual event.

The world marks this year’s celebrations amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. It also falls shortly after the massive 4 August explosion in Lebanon which claimed many lives. Thus, Caritas Internationalis is calling for “greater support to local civil society organizations, especially faith-based ones which around the world are supporting, helping and empowering local communities.”

Caritas Internationalis – a global confederation of 162 national relief and development agencies – is the second-largest civil society Catholic network and is present in almost all countries of the world. It aims to defend, serve, and accompany the poorest communities especially in times of disaster.

Local communities, first place actors of solidarity

“At a time when the disasters are getting to be more and more complex and the sufferings are high,” continued the statement, “the first support is given by the local communities which are better placed to bring appropriate help to the affected.” They are, therefore “to be recognized in the first place as actors of immediate solidarity,” insisted Caritas.

Even as the different parts of the world battle with the Covid-19 pandemic, Caritas points out that local communities have “shown the importance of being autonomous in taking quick action in responding to the pandemic.” Many, Caritas said, are “highly engaged in motivating and mobilizing community members to bring support and help to those who are vulnerable and also to build awareness around the danger of COVID-19 showing them how to avoid contamination.”

At this historic moment, continued the statement, “the international humanitarian system is being tested like never before, and humanitarian missions at the global level are bringing help to 1 in about 45 persons around the world.”

For this reason, Caritas “fully supports the localization of humanitarian aid and works to provide local communities with the knowhow and the means they need to enable them to respond to humanitarian emergencies autonomously.”

“This World Humanitarian Day must lead us to innovation in humanitarian response wherein governments and international aid community must focus on the empowerment of the local civil society organizations, especially faith-based organizations which are present with local communities,” said Aloysius John.

“At a time when the localization agenda is being introduced, it is vital that enough means are given to the civil society organizations to empower the local communities and prepare them for the humanitarian response in autonomy,” he added.

Appeals by Caritas

Caritas calls on governments to allocate funds to the empowerment of local civil society organizations and their basic structures, as well as provide funds to enable local communities to take appropriate action at times of disaster. Caritas is also calling for the protection of humanitarian workers and the interests of local communities.

World Humanitarian Day

In 2008, the United Nations General assembly designated 19 August as World Humanitarian Day in memory of the 19 August 2003 bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad which killed 22 people, including UN chief humanitarian in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. World Humanitarian Day was celebrated for the first time on 19 August 2009.

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