Last Updated: Wednesday - 01/05/2011
October 22, 2001
Canada must do more to help refugees — Gervais
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA — The federal government isn't doing enough to help millions of Afghan refugees survive the humanitarian crisis resulting from drought, war and onset of winter, says Archbishop Marcel Gervais of Ottawa.
"The number of refugees along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border has already reach four to five million people and the numbers are rising rapidly," said Gervais at a news conference Oct. 11 launching the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace's fundraising drive to aid Afghan refugees.
"They are living in deplorable conditions and many will die if they do not receive emergency assistance."
Canada has contributed US$3.8 million in aid money so far, compared to US$54 million from Norway, with a population of 4.5 million, said CCODP.
Robert Letendre, executive director of CCODP, noted the federal government has cut its foreign aid budget by 33 per cent in less than 10 years and called its response to the refugee crisis in Afghanistan " a disgrace."
However, he later toned down the remark, stating to reporters, "I will be more diplomatic and say that the Canadian government is not moving very fast."
Letendre said that if the government has money for war and for security measures but no money for humanitarian assistance, Canadians could compensate by helping organizations such as CCODP, the Red Cross and others that are in a position to help out.
Josiane Gauthier, Emergency Response Officer for CCODP, said that because of the security situation on the Afghan-Pakistan border, the movement of aid supplies has slowed down.
"There is a problem in the field in Afghanistan," she said.
However, CCODP is working with an organization that is already in the field in Afghanistan, Gauthier added. "We are getting the aid across - as other organizations are trying to do - through small open passages in the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan."
In Montreal, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte said, "This is becoming a tragedy of enormous proportions. It is one of the largest forced migrations in history."
The United Nations says US$584 million will be needed to prevent a catastrophe in the weeks ahead.
Cheques can be mailed to Development and Peace, 10 St. Mary Street, Suite 420 Toronto M4Y 1P9. All cheques should be clearly labelled: "Development and Peace - Afghanistan." For telephone inquiries, the number is 1-888-664-3387
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