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Brazil: Churches open their doors to thousands displaced by floods
Chapels welcome displaced persons in Sena Madureira, Acre, Brazil 25 February 2021. Churches open their doors in Brazil's western Amazon region after days of flooding cause the displacement of thousands of families.

By Vatican News staff writer

Thousands of families have been left homeless in the western Amazon after torrential rains caused severe flooding across the Brazilian state of Acre. At an already critical time due to the Covid-19 pandemic, those most hard-hit are the poor who live on the banks of rivers. This is the case for the community of Sena Madureira, a town near the Iaco River. Located about 145 km from the capital Rio Branco, Sena is the third most populous municipality in Acre, after Rio Branco and Cruzeiro do Sul.

Solidarity of the Church

In Sena Madureira, the flood has affected 17 thousand people. Of these, 4 thousand are already housed in public reception facilities such as sports fields and schools. The Catholic Church has joined in the solidarity mobilisation and is welcoming families. Fr Moisés de Oliveira Coelho of the Order of the Servants of Mary, and parish priest of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Parish, spoke to Vatican News and explained "we have some chapels that are being used as temporary shelters, such as the Nossa Senhora Aparecida Chapel, the São Sebastião Chapel and the Santa Cruz Chapel. Other chapels are also occupied by the goods that families in need of help have managed to recover.

The Church is also working to collect donations for those who have lost everything. Fr Moisés explained that this is why the Ação Bom Samaritano ("Action of the Good Samaritan") has been launched: a solidarity campaign promoted in collaboration with the local government. He said that the parish collects food, shoes, clothing, personal hygiene and cleaning products: "We receive donations from our faithful, from people of goodwill and we prepare food parcels and then distribute them to shelters." 

Looking ahead

The solidarity of the local Church does not stop at the current emergency, but also looks to the aftermath, to when people will have to return home. For this reason Fr Moisés said that they are putting donation money aside: "We have opened an account so that, after the floods are over, we will be able to help families buy cleaning products, personal hygiene items and basic necessities. These are still small gestures compared to the magnitude of what is happening, but they are sufficient and necessary and will increase as donations grow. So, we depend on donations to be able to do these good deeds and that is why we always count on the help and collaboration of everyone at this time."

The crisis in Acre

The flooding of regional rivers in the State of Acre also created problems in the capital Rio Branco, in Cruzeiro do Sul and in the municipalities of Tarauacá, Feijó, Santa Rosa do Purus and Rodrigues Alves. To deal with the emergency, all public agencies are on high alert and are providing relief to the population at risk. State authorities have created 23 temporary shelters for displaced people and last weekend they distributed more than 500 food parcels to the population. In all, about 120,000 people are affected. More than 32 thousand families have been devastated by these extreme weather events. The health situation in Acre is also particularly critical due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the dengue epidemic and malaria. Both infections and hospitalisations are increasing, putting hospitals under great pressure.