BY ANTO AKKARA
CHURCH AID workers in Pakistan are gradually reaching hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the rain and floods that have also claimed more than 1,200 lives.
Carolyn Fanelli of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Pakistan, said: “The biggest challenge before us is how to get relief to the needy. Bridges have collapsed and roads have been washed out.” Eric Dayal of Caritas Pakistan said his agency was faced with the same difficulty.
“Access to the affected people is the biggest problem confronting us now,” he said.
“Most of the roads in the affected area are gone and even telephone links are broken. With electric supply also disrupted, communication remains a big headache.” Miss Fanelli said CRS was in touch with its 40 staff through satellite phones, even though in the most devastated areas they had evacuated their offices. She said the Karakoram Highway passing through Besham is “like a river”. Miss Fanelli said the unprecedented rains in the mountainous region have had a crippling impact on the people, who “have no roof and are struggling in the open without food or even drinking water”.
“Our immediate concern is to reach shelter and hygiene kits to these affected people,” she said, noting that the initial aid donation would help 20,000, and more aid would be sent after assessments from field workers.
Mr Dayal said that Caritas Pakistan had already moved tent material to be distributed through Multan diocese and planned to take care of about 2,500 families in emergency response.
He spoke about the potential for epidemics if people did not get aid, including clean water.
Said Mehmood, an engineer for CRS in Besham, said workers walked along muddy roads blocked by landslides and had to cross a temporary bridge made of electrical utility poles to reach some of the villages. In an effort to get food from the market in Besham people were coming to the town after walking through hills for up to 10 hours, Mr Mehmood said.
Caritas Pakistan reported that it had finalised plans to provide much-needed relief to 2,500 families hard hit by one of the worst floods in Pakistan’s history, reported UCA News.
Anila Jacolin Gill, the charity’s national executive secretary, said: “Our assessment teams have submitted their reports. We shall start providing food items, nonfood items, tents and medical aid next week.” The most seriously affected areas include IslamabadRawalpindi and Multan dioceses as well Quetta vicariate.
Bishop Victor Gnanapragasam of Quetta, said: “There is a desperate need to alleviate the considerable suffering without any distinction of caste, creed or ethnic origin.” Fr Amir Yaqub in the Nowshehra district in KhyberPakhtunkhwa province said people are encamped along the main highway in the region. “Hundreds of Christian and Hindu families have moved to safer places. A group of nuns has also left the area,” he said from his parish house in Nowshehra. Pakistan’s government said that it has already deployed more than 30,000 troops to rescue marooned people and to deliver aid to them.
With more than a million people already affected by the floods and meteorologists predicting heavy rains in the monsoon season, aid workers fear tougher times ahead. Fr Tom Rafferty, parish priest of Holy Name Church, Nowshera, described an urgent need for medical supplies to curb an outbreak of malaria, dysentery, scabies and other skin rashes, typhoid, cholera and other potential health epidemics.
Fr Rafferty, a Mill Hill Missionary, said in a message to the UK branch of Aid to the Church in Need, which has sent £12,500 of food, bedding and clothing, that “the appeals coming from Nowshera are becoming more desperate by the day”.