|Photo courtesy Catholic Mission.|
Pakistan has been inundated by the worst floods in decades following heavy monsoon rain that fell over the Indus River basin in July. More than 2000 people have been killed and an estimated 20 million people have been affected by the floods, which have caused massive destruction.
From northern Pakistan to the southern province of Sindh, homes, bridges, and schools have been washed away and water systems and medical facilities have been destroyed.
A further 1 million people have been evacuated from low-lying areas in the south. Evacuation camps have been set up in schools and other government buildings.
Millions of people have fled the floods after losing everything; their homes, belongings, businesses, livestock and crops.
Catholic Mission’s National Director, Martin Teulan, has appealed for prayers for the people of Pakistan in this time of national crisis. “The people of Pakistan are faced with a great tragedy,” he said.
“After suffering so much in their daily lives with internal conflict, violence and acts of terrorism they now face an even greater national emergency. The people, their homes and loved ones, have been unbelievably devastated.”
The floods have contaminated water sources and damaged pipes so people have little or no access to clean water or sanitation. There are fears that water-borne diseases and illnesses like cholera and diarrhoea could spread rapidly.
The floods have also affected many Afghan refugees. Pakistan has 1.7 million refugees, the highest number of refugees in any country in the world. At least two refugee camps housing thousands of families have been washed away.
The monsoon season in Pakistan lasts until the first week of September.
The task of getting assistance to communities is challenging, with roads and bridges damaged or completely swept away and landslides adding to the isolation and destruction.
Continuing bad weather has hampered the relief effort by grounding aid and medical helicopters.
Caritas Australia has launched the South Asia Floods, Pakistan Appeal and is responding through its international Caritas network.
The relief effort is underway with local partners responding to the community’s immediate needs: food, water and shelter by delivering hygiene and shelter kits, including water purification tablets to people in the severely affected areas of Shangla, Kohistan, and Swat Districts in the North West of the country.
The kits also come with cookware for boiling water, and oral rehydration salts for those who suffer diarrhoea. People are encouraged to filter water through cloth and then treat it with the purification tablets.
Catholic Mission’s Director for Pakistan, Fr Mario Rodrigues, visited the worst-hit area in the north of the country. “There is no drinking water available as all the reservoirs have been contaminated,” he said. “The people drink the water around them to keep themselves alive and as a result end up suffering from diarrhoea and other stomach infections.”
Australian-born Columban missionary, Fr Robert McCulloch SSC, said Pakistan had never seen a disaster on this scale. “The loss of life and housing is the immediate concern of disaster relief, but the greater tragedy for Pakistan is the loss of a bumper harvest of wheat, which has been destroyed by the floods,” he said.
Unlike Australia, where grain is stored in silos, the newly harvested grain is left covered in the fields before transportation. Now it is all under water. Fr Robert said he anticipated that famine will follow the flood. “The long-term consequences for the people will be devastating.”
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