March 2, 2010
By Christine Hills
The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund is monitoring the earthquake relief needs in Chile and is prepared to respond as ACT identifies areas of need. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has met with ACT members for discussions on the emergency response.
ACT member Church World Service (CWS) works with two Chilean agencies, FASIC (Fundacion de Ayuda Social de las Iglesias Cristianas) and IMECH, the Methodist Church of Chile. CWS will assess the situation with local partners and decide whether to offer further assistance through the international ACT Alliance network.
ACT Alliance General Secretary John Nduna says many ACT members are ready to support the work Church World Service is doing in Chile and some are already in place. “Our members will try to supplement the effort of the government, especially in communities where our local partners have been operating for years.”
While PWRDF does not currently have development partners in Chile, the Anglican Church of Canada was among the founding members of the ecumenical coalition, the Inter-Church Committee on Chile which subsequently became the Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America (ICCHRLA), one of the predecessor coalitions of KAIROS (Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives). Those coalitions worked with Chile ACT member, FASIC and other church and community-based organizations for almost three decades in the defense and promotion of human rights during Chile’s dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet and accompanied them through the country’s democratization process. Now, in the face of this devastating earthquake, PWRDF, through ACT continues to respond to partners in Chile.
The powerful 8.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Chile early Saturday, February 27 killed more than 700 people, destroyed 500,000 homes and displaced 1.5 million people. Worst hit areas are being targeted for the distribution of basic necessities and early assessments indicate that the damage is far more extensive than originally thought.
According to President Bachelet, two million people have been affected by the earthquake. It is feared the damage may cost tens of billions of dollars.
Canadian Foreign Affairs officials said about 5,000 Canadians live in Chile, with about 1,000 in the area hit by the quake.
Conception, located along the Bio Bio River next to the Pacific coast, was the worst hit. It is the second largest city in Chile and many people are staying on the streets because their houses are partially destroyed or they fear aftershocks.
ACT Alliance – Action by Churches Together is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working together for positive and sustainable change in the lives of people affected by emergencies, poverty and injustice through coordinated and effective humanitarian, development and advocacy work.