Anila J.Gill, Caritas Pakistan director, spoke to Kamran Chaudhry about the recent challenges in dealing with country’s most catastrophic floods which has affected more than 20 million people.
How serious is the humanitarian crisis following the massive floods in Pakistan?
The flood waters have washed away 10 percent of our crops and now food security challenges us in coming months. The risk of epidemics is also growing especially in the worst hit areas. It is very painful to see people without food and shelter. The scale of disaster is so huge that people will not forget it for a long time.
Is the world doing enough to respond to the disaster?
The total revised appeal of Caritas Pakistan is for 171,310,259 rupees/€ 1,571,654 (this is part of a larger appeal by the whole confederation which is calling for €10 million). So far we have received hundred percent responses from our funding partners. Within the country, many local donors and people of all walks of life have generously donated to the relief funds. For instance Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician, collected more than one billion rupees in a telethon in just three weeks.
Credibility is the key. Perhaps the overall image of our country, especially the instability in the politic world, is somehow affecting the aid. However, the only thing that matters is that the help should reach the people.
What has Caritas done to help the people?
Caritas swung into action right after the onset of floods. Aid workers were sent immediately to assess needs and funds of ten million rupees were sent to all the dioceses in the first week.
The survival of the flood victims is our top priority and we are providing food items, tents and medicines in the relief phase spanning six months. Our “foot soldiers” or teams in the field are committed to relief work round the clock.
Accounts are separately being maintained for the huge amount of money pouring in. Caritas finance team has already completed its monitoring visits in three dioceses and the work continues.
What are the challenges you are facing?
We are facing three fold pressures from international, local and regional partners. We are working hard to provide a regular flow of information and communication. The shortage of supplies and increase in prices are affecting what we buy. Security remains a chief concern and whenever there is the threat of looting, the relief items are dropped off in parish houses and given out later.
Several Caritas aid workers were injured last week in a road accident in Sibbi, Balochistan province. Our disaster management coordinator in Hyderabad diocese got scabies due to unhealthy working conditions.
What is the importance of Caritas work in bringing interfaith harmony?
Caritas has worked on a number of disasters in Pakistan over the years. Most of our beneficiaries are Muslim families and we have not faced any difficulties. Our logo can still be seen at the Caritas housing project for the quake affected in Balakot, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The town was rebuilt after the massive 2005 earthquake.
Caritas Pakistan also aided relief and rehabilitation work in the 2008 Balochistan earthquake, the 2007 southern Punjab cyclones and for the 2001 – 2005 Afghan refugees programme. From 2001-2003, Caritas built four dams and 18 ponds in Nagarparkar, Thar desert.
What are your hopes for coming days?
The implications of disaster can be minimized by concerted efforts. The severe blow to overall infrastructure provides an opportunity for the government to review its policies for development. We cannot afford the duplication of efforts.
Pakistan has the potential to stabilize again. The population of over 180 million can help the country recover if each individual takes responsibility for at least one flood victim. We have big industrialists and companies, each of whom can cater to the needs of a whole village. It is time to show what we are made of.
About Anila J. Gill
Ms. Gill serves as the national Executive Secretary of Caritas Pakistan. She has been associated with capacity building and community mobilisation processes in several non government organisations as well as in the Lahore University of Management Sciences, a leading academic institution in South Asia. Ms Gill successfully managed the relief programme in the 2005 Kashmir quake. Gill has a master’s degree in Anthropology.