Brazil: ACT getting relief to most vulnerable

Thursday, January 20, 2011

by Susanne Buchweitz,
Fundação Luterana de Diaconia, FLD.

Being first on the scene of flooded Brazilian villages can be harrowing, according to pastor Adelcio Kronbauer, working with ACT Alliance members to get relief goods to isolated villages.

Kronbauer signed up as civil defence volunteer to help distribute food with the help of a Brazilian army truck to worst affected areas. He said that when the truck arrives in some villages, the atmosphere onboard becomes tense. “Everyone is quiet. You never know how many people might be starving there - maybe hundreds. And we might not have enough food to offer.”

Brazil is facing its worst weather catastrophe in decades after nonstop heavy rain in the southeast caused floods and mudslides in many cities, especially Rio de Janeiro state in the Serrana region. Millions of people have lost belongings, homes, means of earning income – and loved ones. A total of 650 people have died, mainly from Rio de Janeiro, Teresopolis, Petropolis, Sumidouro and Nova Friburgo, the worst affected towns. Gloablly, this catastrophe is the sixth most deadly in the last 12 months.

Brazilian authorities fear the death toll could climb as rescue workers retrieve more victims buried under collapsed homes and buildings.

ACT Alliance member organisations in Brazil have come together to support the population, and community-based churches in the cities have deployed emergency response and offered solidarity to survivors.

Congregations of the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil (IELCB) have created committees to work out people’s needs and create a plan of relief action with other aid organisations and the government.

“This way we want to assist the most urgent requests of those unassisted, and avoid the waste of resources and replication of help,” said IELCB synodical pastor Guilherme Lieven. “At the same time, we also need to think both on mid and long term levels, when the media’s attention on this region will be gone.”

After seeing the worst-hit areas, Lieven said too many clothes had been donated but too few diapers for the elderly or underwear for women in the shelters, and urged cash donations. Brazilian members of ACT Alliance – Koinonia, Lutheran Foundation of Diaconia (FLD), Ecumenical Coordinator of Services (CESE), Diaconia and Christian Aid - are working on an appeal for flood relief.

He knew of a Lutheran congregation president who was sheltering 18 people under her roof, a house normally shared between the president and her mother alone. “It is all very, very sad, but after so much death we have to start thinking and working for life,” said Lieven.

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