April 21, 2010



TYPHOON MORAKOT : Open the awareness of the Aborigines People to Climate Change in Taiwan

Typhoon Morakot


Typhoon Morakot was the most devastating catastrophe that hit Taiwan in 50 years. It devastated several parts of southern Taiwan on August 8, 2009. The heavy rainfall of 2,777mm caused mudslides and floodings that buried the entire town of Xiaolin and flashed giant rocks and trees to the low lands and to the ocean. Hundreds of lives were claimed and hundreds of people were left homeless and displaced. The aftermath damaged billion of dollars worth of infrastructures like roads, bridges, homes and agriculture that were the source of life for the aborigines people.


The only access to the affected villages was by helicopter. Hundreds of people from Kaoshiung and Chiayi counties were airlifted to safety. While in Pingtung county, thousands were trapped on coastal towns without electricity and drinking water. Livestock were drowned and their remains rotting in the mud raised public health concern.


In the wake of Typhoon Morakot, the Catholic Church in Taiwan, the Bishops, all the dioceses and Diocesan Caritas launched charity and fund raising drives for relief assistance to the poor victims. The catastrophe also unite both Christian and non-Christian groups in helping the fatalities.



Collaboration is not without challenges and conflicts


The Buddhist group who came to help the victims met some resistance from the Christian aborigines when they imposed that their village is to be named with ¡§Buddhist terminology¡¨ and that the people should follow vegetarian diet.


Typhoon Morakot also burst opened the awareness of the aboriginal people regarding territorial rights and policies regarding their ownership of the lands.


Leaders of the aborigines people have come out to the open and are more articulate in their protest against the Taiwan government¡¦s plan to ¡§re-map¡¨ the aborigines people¡¦s territories and against the policies which will cause implication to their unique culture and way of life. A Catholic professor and a legislator, who is an Atayal, are advocating the cause of the aborigines people in Taiwan.



CARITAS TAIWAN Response to Climate Change


The mudslides and flash floods washed tons of woods to the southeast coastline of Taiwan. The ¡§driftwoods¡¨ were found out to be abandoned miscuts of the trees that were cut in the mountains. The 980,000 tons of ¡§driftwoods¡¨ which is equivalent to 19,000 hectares of timber is the largest amount of driftwoods ever seen on Taitung coastline.


On the process of resettlement and rebuilding their lives, CARITAS promoted organic farming to the victims of Typhoon Morakot. One of the certified organic farm grower volunteered to train the people to the method of organic farming.  CARITAS donated an excavator and a bulldozer to be used in preparing the farmland and also a truck for delivering and transporting the farm products.


After the devastating typhoon, the aborigines people became more aware of their territorial rights and more articulate in their claims from the Taiwan government for the protection of their ownership of the lands.


The aborigines people whose way of life is to live closely with nature have a unique culture to be appreciated and values to be respected.


In Taiwan, CARITAS was to first one to promote the ¡§3Rs garbage system¡¨ (3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). This has been helping the society realize the importance of environmental protection by changing people¡¦s lifestyle.



Relief Assistance to the victims of Typhoon  Morakot


¡P        CARITAS-TAIWAN immediately sent 500 charity packages that contained food, blankets, medicines and utensils to the affected areas. Some of the packages where transported by helicopter to be delivered to the people who were stranded in remote areas.


¡P        Granted schooling subsidy for 3 school years to almost 500 poor students who were displaced or lost their families by the typhoon.


¡P        Donated administrative equipments like computer printers and Internet servers to the school that were damaged by the typhoon.


¡P        Subsidized the repair of school fence that was damaged by the typhoon.


¡P        Distributed 665 electric cookers and chopsticks to the families.


¡P        Four units of ¡§4Wheel Drive¡¨ cars and seven-seaters mini bus were donated to 4 different Dioceses to be use for delivering supplies and for transportation of the sick and old people who need to go to the hospital.


¡P        Excavator, bulldozer and truck were donated to help aborigines people convert their lands into organic farms.


¡P        A 360 sq.m. tent was donated to be used as temporary shelter for community gathering and workshop for the aboriginese community.


¡P        Two prefabricated houses were assembled to serve as multipurpose halls for the aboriginese community.




CARITAS TAIWAN: 30 Years of service to the aborigines people


CARITAS TAIWAN has been serving the aborigines people since 1978 when they were migrating within Taiwan to answer the labor shortage in the industrial zones.


Hundred of aborigines people moved from their villages in the mountains to work in different parts of Taiwan where constructions and factories were sprouting. Many of them brought along their families and were living in poor crowded shacks in the city where they were called ¡§urban aboriginese.¡¨


CARITAS with the collaboration of some volunteers reached out to the urban aborigines to know and understand their situation.  With the help of APHD, Caritas established a Credit Union to help the ¡§urban aboriginese¡¨ borrow money at zero interest to buy decent houses to live in. Caritas also taught and trained the aborigines about savings and financial management.


The same was done with another aborigines community that was relocated by the government from the mountain to the lowland.



Present issues of the aborigines people


The aborigines people in Taiwan are marginalized and under developed. They are victims of development because the government is converting their territories into commercial areas. Thus, they are relocated away from their villages and their way of life.


It happened before that the government relocated a community of aborigines people from the 3,000 feet high mountain to a dried-out riverbed in the lowland for the purpose of safely and protection. However, at the height of the storm, the strong water current totally washed out the relocated community. So now aborigines people are demanding for a well-studied re-mapping of aborigines territories all over Taiwan.


The aborigines who are considered the ¡§new poor¡¨ are becoming victims of human trafficking and child abuse or exploitation.


Caritas continue to accompany the aborigines people by listening to their concerns and empowering them to act for their rights. Community development means to be partners with the poor people in searching ways to improve their lives.


Our gratitude goes to all the gesture of solidarity and sympathy we received from Taiwan and from abroad in moments of distress of the typhoon victims.