Pakistan Church rushes winter aid to flood victims

With the arrival of winter, Church groups are rushing aid to people affected by the devastating floods that hit the country in June.

Temperatures are already dropping in Pakistan, which is still reeling from flooding that put one-third of the country under water, displaced eight million people and caused at least US$28 billion worth of damage.

The coldest months will be December and January when the mercury will plummet to well below freezing.

Father James Channan, director of the Dominican Peace Center in Lahore, sent quilts, grocery items¸ hygiene kits and shoes to 50 people in Basti Fakhar, south Punjab through Caritas Pakistan Multan which distributed the items on Nov. 11.

"Unless urgent steps are taken, more people may die"


The priest aims to reach out to 1,000 families during the winter and has already helped 600 households including Christians, Muslims and Hindus in Bahawalpur and Rajanpur districts with the support of Accion Verapaz, a Spanish NGO linked to the Dominicans.

“Winter is approaching very fast and unless urgent steps are taken, more people may die. Sadly, not much has been done despite high profile visits of Hollywood A-lister and UNHCR ambassador Angelina Jolie and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres,” Father Channan told UCA News.

“Not a single mud house was livable in affected villages. It’s like living in a dried pond with shards of soil. No government officials have visited them, he added.”

Caritas Pakistan is planning to reach out to 5,000 flood-affected people in the next few months.

“It’s a crucial phase. Contrary to media reports, water is still standing in some districts of interior Sindh province as well as in southwestern Balochistan,” said Amjad Gulzar, executive director of Caritas Pakistan.

“The harsh season threatens the lives of those in tent settlements. Warm clothes, bedding, shelter and medical assistance are required in the millions to prevent a medical emergency,” he said.

"The taste of water has changed and it smells"

Gulzar accompanied Archbishop Sebastian Shaw, apostolic administrator of Multan diocese, during a visit to Caritas tent villages and a medical camp in south Punjab on Nov. 3. He distributed quilts, warm clothes, bedding, grocery items, nutrition kits and hygiene packages among flood victims.

Muhammad Zafar, a Muslim community leader, welcomed the Church help.

“Surviving winter is our first priority. Many people are still living under the open sky. A bag of fertilizer costs up to 13,000 rupees [US$59] and a one-kilo bag of wheat seed is 6,000 rupees. We cannot afford them. The taste of water has changed and it smells,” he said.

Archbishop Shaw urged locals to avoid building houses in low-lying areas.     

“The government should provide them with homes on higher ground, at least it will save the lives of both families and their livestock. May God save us from another flood like this. We are already poor. Such disasters drag us behind many years,” he said.

In a press statement released on Oct 30, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also called on the state to hasten the rehabilitation of flood-affected people.

“While the scale of the disaster was overwhelming, it is now essential to focus on resettling those displaced in habitats that are better adapted to the effects of climate change,” said Hina Jilani, the commission's chairperson.

“While Pakistan has every right to demand climate reparations, it must also look within and articulate a strategy to ensure that its most vulnerable groups receive climate justice and to secure everyone’s right to food, shelter and health amid the economic crisis.”

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Peace Center is very important institution which is playing a significant role in spite of all the difficulties we are confronted with. A couple of Dominican Friars are active in Christian- Muslim dialogue and they are well known both nationally and internationally for promoting Christian-Muslim dialogue. It is top priority of the Dominican Order in the world and in Pakistan as well.
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