After winding up emergency relief work in the state of Gujarat in western India, church charities are now adopting entire villages in a region devastated by January's earthquake.

Almost all the major church agencies that have been providing aid to the millions left without shelter are now working with the Gujarat state government to provide "total rehabilitation" to villages.

Although government officials say 30,000 died in the disaster, independent studies and social activists say the figure of 100,000 is a much more accurate estimate of the toll in the earthquake, which measured 8.1 on the Richter scale. The disaster struck Gujarat, home state of Mahatma Gandhi, on January 26, India's Republic Day.

Edwin Ramathal, director of the Indian branch of Lutheran World Service (LWS), said LWS India, along with Action by Churches Together (ACT), was "busy building 2,000 temporary shelters in nine villages."

"We are planning to adopt four [of the nine] villages and build [a total of] 700 houses [in them]," Ramathal said. LWS India would then meet the villagers' essential needs, from housing and basic infrastructure to health centers and schools, he said.

The village adoptions come on the heels of emergency relief efforts in which LWS India provided 21,000 families in 49 villages with equipment to set up temporary shelters—plastic sheeting, tarpaulin, tents, lanterns, bedsheets and blankets.

Likewise, after distributing food and relief materials worth 60 million rupees (US$1.3 million) to 40,000 families over two months, Caritas India, a Catholic agency, is building 9,000 temporary shelters for homeless villagers in Gujarat. The temporary shelters cost about US$1.7 million.

Caritas India plans to adopt 10 villages and build 3000 permanent ...

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