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After earthquake, Catholic relief agencies commit to rebuilding Peru

A magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck at 6:40 p.m. about 100 miles south of the capital city of Lima. Homes, churches and buildings, many made from adobe, crumbled under the intense shaking. The Pan American Highway, the country’s major thoroughfare that links Lima with the affected areas to the south, buckled in places and became nearly impassible.

But the human toll was even greater. The worst earthquake to hit Peru in 30 years killed more than 500 people, many buried under tons of rubble. At least 35,000 homes were destroyed, leaving 85,000 suffering people in need of shelter.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) field staff in Peru mobilized immediately. Working with our local church partner, Caritas Peru, CRS began identifying critical needs and delivering life-saving supplies, including food, water, shelter, blankets, and cooking and hygiene kits, and other essential material. All CRS staff in Peru and many from across South America were dispatched to Peru to help in the effort.

They found that the earthquake took its greatest toll on those who were most vulnerable.

“The people most affected by the earthquake are some of the poorest to begin with,” said Aaron Skrocki, CRS emergency coordinator in South America. “The earthquake has taken what was already a difficult situation and made it worse. That is where Catholic Relief Services comes in. We are there to support the local church helping people get back on their feet and regain their lives as quickly as possible.”

CRS has committed an initial $100,000 and is seeking an additional $1.4 million to support Caritas Peru's response and reconstruction efforts. The appeal is part of a larger Caritas Confederation effort to raise $11 million for immediate relief and long-term recovery, which would ultimately help some 50,000 people.

Caritas Peru has already set up its main centers of operations in Pisco, Cañete, Ica and Chinca, where hundreds of volunteers are helping with aid distributions and other activities. Traveling through Chincha, Ica, and Pisco, the three cities nearest the quake’s epicenter, Skrocki and a CRS/Caritas assessment team found widespread destruction in the poorer rural areas where homes are made of adobe. Initial relief efforts were hampered due to the condition of the roads.

In addition, fragile potable water and irrigation systems were destroyed by the tremor. Restoring the systems over the next several months will be critical in allowing displaced families to return to farming the land and watering their livestock.

But for the time being, the emergency response takes precedence. Recovery will be a long-term process.

“Right now we have to focus on the most immediate needs of the Peruvian people,” said Brian Goonan, regional representative for South America. “Once the immediate needs are met, CRS’ long-term response will include permanent shelters, continued access to clean water, infrastructure improvements and the recovery and rehabilitation of livelihoods.”

CRS, in partnership with Caritas Peru, has been responding to natural disasters in Peru since 1954. In addition to emergency relief, the agency supports programs—credit unions, health education and agricultural production—that help poor, marginalized communities become self-reliant.

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How to Help? Donations can be made:

- On online at

- By telephone at 1-877-HELP-CRS.

- By mail by sending a check (noting Peru Earthquake Fund in the memo section of the check) to Catholic Relief Services, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, Md. 21203-7090.


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