Updated: April 28, 2021 07:35 AM GMT
Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler offers money and food to a family in Takeo province on April 6. (Photo: catholicphnompenh.org)
Caritas in the most active archdiocese in Vietnam has launched an appeal fund to provide millions of face masks for Cambodia's fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Father Vincent Vu Ngoc Dong, head of Caritas in Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese, said neighboring Cambodia has recorded over 10,000 new cases of coronavirus infections in recent days. Since March 17, social activities with assembled crowds and religious services have been suspended throughout the Southeast Asian country.
The Salesian priest said Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang of Ho Chi Minh City wrote to express solidarity with Bishop Schmitthaeusler and the Church in Cambodia.
“After directly talking with the bishop about the current situation of Covid-19, Archbishop Nang asked Caritas to appeal for donations to support people in the capital Phnom Penh and surrounding areas,” Father Dong said in a letter issued on April 27.
The head of Caritas launched the Four Million Face Masks Program and called on people including priests and religious orders to make generous donations to the cause. The masks will be given to Bishop Schmitthaeusler to deliver to all people regardless of their religious background in Phnom Penh.
All public places including pagodas and churches have been closed for the past two months to contain the Covid-19 outbreak
Father Dong said that to ensure the masks are of good quality, Caritas will sign contracts with local mask suppliers and ship them to Cambodia following official regulations.
Brother Paul Van The Vinh, a Vietnamese missionary who has worked in Cambodia for 12 years, said all public places including pagodas and churches have been closed for the past two months to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.
Brother Vinh, who is in charge of Somrong Thom Parish in Kandal province bordering Phnom Penh, said he could not pay pastoral visits to his parishioners but only called and asked them about their situation as many provinces remain isolated. The parish is home to some 400 Catholics of Vietnamese origin.
“People are required to wear face masks when they go out, so masks are one of basic supplies that are absolutely essential for them to protect their own health,” Brother Vinh said, adding that Phnom Penh alone has five million residents while masks are made to be used once only and then thrown away.
On April 6, Bishop Olivier and other people visited and offered basic food and goods including masks and cleaning materials to a community affected by the pandemic in Takeo province.
The French prelate also reminded people to follow health protocols and to clean the environment around their community, according to www.catholicphnompenh.org.
Mony Rattana Tae, director of the agriculture office of the development department of the Ministry of National Defense, expressed gratitude for the local Church’s help in underprivileged areas.
“This is a way to inspire [poor families] during the quarantine and help them not to be afraid and have hope,” he said.