Nuncio explains Vatican’s swift tsunami relief, says opportunity for development mustn’t be squandered

.- During a speech to the United Nations Economic and Social Council yesterday, the Vatican’s Archbishop Celestino Migliore stressed that the unprecedented aid and support sent to areas ravaged by last December’s tsunami, “must not be squandered.”

The archbishop, who is permanent observer to the U.N. discussed the aid given to those affected by the catastrophe and the task of rebuilding the countries involved during his speech. The U.N. council held a special session which looked at "special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance."

Archbishop Migliore praised the Holy See and other charitable organizations for their swiftness in responding to the December 26th disaster.

"Dozens of Catholic agencies quickly followed this up,” he said, “with projects for the reconstruction of homes and schools" in the countries affected. "It is estimated that around 650 million dollars has been made available by agencies related to the Holy See to the peoples affected by the tsunami."

He noted that "the funds just mentioned were firstly applied to the most urgent emergency needs: safe drinking water, food, shelter, clothing, etc. ... Refugees, internally displaced persons, and women and children especially vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation, were among the first to be helped.”

“After the emergency phase,” the archbishop added, “reconstruction and rehabilitation projects were begun, including the rebuilding of homes, schools and hospitals, not to mention the provision of agricultural and fishing equipment."

Noting the importance of spiritual and religious support in the rebuilding process, the U.N. observer also highlighted the Vatican’s commitment "in all circumstances to respect religious and cultural differences, and to work amicably to facilitate greater trust among believers of all faiths and non-believers. Inter-religious cooperation and peace-building initiatives will continue to form an important element of the Church's work."

Archbishop Migliore also discussed the planning and distribution of resources, saying, "Our agencies and institutions in the areas affected by the tsunami specifically examined ways of avoiding the creation of a bloated bureaucracy to deal with the emergency, in order to ensure the delivery of the greatest amount of funding to its proper final destination."

The prelate closed his presentation to the U.N. council by noting that ironically, the tsunami disaster "has actually presented the affected governments and peoples with an unprecedented opportunity for reconstruction and development.”

“The internal, bilateral, north-south and south-south cooperation which was seen at the time is a platform, not to be squandered, but to be built upon for the good both of the survivors and of all the peoples of the region."

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