The fishing communities who survive on the produce of Manchar Lake in Sindh, Pakistan could never have imagined that the source of their livelihoods would one day destroy everything they owned. The lake is the biggest in Pakistan and has sustained generations of their families, with 20,000 people currently dependent on it for their survival. Yet, last summer, the lake wiped away everything they had worked so hard to build-up. Encouraged by the onrushing rivers and tributaries which feed into it, Manchar Lake rose up and swallowed the villages that surround it. Thankfully for the people who live there, Trócaire (Caritas Ireland) and the Pakistani Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), a nationwide organisation representing the needs of fishing communities, had piloted an emergency preparedness programme in the communities. Fearing the onset of flooding, the programme equipped the communities with loudspeakers, radios and a colour-coded flag system to warn when water was reaching dangerous [...]
By Laura Sheahen, Catholic Relief Services On a day in September 2010, a group of white-bearded men left their mountaintop village in Pakistan and wended their way down 5000 feet of steep, rocky slopes. None of them were young; one used a cane. At the base of the mammoth mountain, a river had burst its banks and destroyed the only bridge leading where they needed to go. The men waited hours to make a precarious journey across the water on a hastily-constructed rope trolley—a tiny open crate that swung and wobbled each of them over the river. After a difficult journey, the men finally reached their destination: a Catholic Relief Services (a US member of Caritas) office in the town of Besham. Getting from their village to Besham was normally a rough, bumpy two hours by car. But during the massive flooding of summer 2010, the journey took far longer. The men [...]
Ghulam Akber clutches his bag of cotton seed and knows he is holding his future. The seeds are the key to 22-year-old Ghulam rebuilding his life. More than anything, he needs a new house. But to get a new house, he needs money; to get money, he needs a crop; to get a crop, he needs the seeds. One year ago Ghulam could not have imagined he would be so desperate. His village, located close to Manchar Lake in the Sindh province of Pakistan, was a successful farming village. Each of the 600 residents lived in stone houses. They had land and machinery and a plentiful crop almost ready for harvesting. But then the floods came and destroyed everything. "We were very happy before the floods," he says. "We had houses and our crops were ready for harvest. But then the floods came and we lost everything - the houses, the [...]
At the end of August 2010, almost one fifth of Pakistan was underwater. Along its entire length, the Indus river had burst its banks, washing away homes, destroying crops and livestock and bringing disease. For the 20 million people affected by the floods, it was an unparalleled disaster. “We were sleeping when I heard screams that the embankment was breached. At first I thought that we were going to die. However, we managed to escape with our charpoys (beds) and my six grand children,” said 60-year-old Gamul Mai. “The raging waters swept away our mud house. I have never been that terrified in my life.” Gamul Mai developed a high fever after escaping the three-feet wave in her village in Sindh. Shortly afterwards, she visited a health centre run by Caritas Pakistan with her two young nieces who were suffering from malaria and skin allergies. She also received food items and mosquito [...]
By Jessica Howell, Catholic Relief Services (CRS is a Caritas member) The early days of last August seemed fairly unremarkable for the small Pakistani village of Rajo Bhayo, until the Indus River – swollen from days of unending monsoon rains in the north – breached a protective embankment nearby and came swirling towards the village. Villagers had about an hour to prepare before the flood hit them. “We did not understand what was happening to us when the waters came,” says Soomri, a 75-year old mother of five and grandmother of 23. Panic ensued, with people fleeing to higher ground as quickly as they could, watching their entire village disappear under rapidly-rising water.
By Kamran Chaudhry, Communications officer Caritas Pakistan Jan 28 was a day with a difference for flood victims like Haji Suleman in a relief camp of Karachi , the southern metropolis. The thumping of a platter gathered jubilant girls adorned in make-up and smiling children at Suleman’s camp as the sounds of merrymaking grew louder. Between the crowd, he sat crossed legged rhythmically moving his arms at the beat.
by Monika Vrsanska, CAFOD programme officer for the Pakistan Emergency On the road to the village of Parto Malik, we finally see the water. A lot of water, considering the flood was supposed to have ended a couple of months ago. The road is very dusty and we cough a lot, but the surrounding fields are still covered with water.
By Elli Xenou, Caritas Coordinator Pakistan I was at home in Athens on summer vacations when the phone rang. Cordaid’s project manager (Cordaid is Caritas Netherlands) sounded worried: “It’s raining two days now non-stop” he said, “something big is going to happen”. Then the first images of floods and destruction made it to the TV News. KPK Province of Pakistan, the area that was plagued by the IDP crisis last year, the area where most of NGOs were working still trying to alleviate the suffering of IDPs and conflict- affected populations, perhaps the most challenging area of Pakistan on the back of the tribal belt, heavily struck by militancy and talibanization was on the verge of a new disaster.
By Kamran Chaudhry, Communications Officer Caritas Pakistan Caritas Pakistan will support the construction of 2500 shelters for people displaced by super floods that swept away homes and crops in the Sindh province last year. “Restoration of basic infrastructure is crucial in returning life back to normal. Months of standing water has exposed the wooden skeleton at the base of the remaining mud houses”, said Shamas Shamaun, Executive Secretary of Caritas Pakistan in Hyderabad dioceses. He was speaking on a visit to the villages in the northern coastal areas of the Sindh province on 25 January. Caritas Pakistan will provide construction material to 1500 families in Karachi and 1000 families in rest of the province, home to the largest number of people made homeless by the floods six months ago. The concept of semi-permanent houses is an innovation to the existing structures composed of wood beams and straw covered in mud. Caritas Pakistan will monitor [...]
Pakistan is still struggling to cope six months after devastating floods that affected 20 million people. “There is still a lot to be done,” said Bishop Joseph Coutts, President of Caritas Pakistan. “We are now moving from the early relief stage to reconstruction. In some regions however, especially in the south, people are still lacking the most basic things like food and clean water.” Caritas members have allocated more than $20 million to the flood response so far. "Thousands of families in the areas most affected by the floods are now in homes and have been able to plant in time for the wheat season, which will provide them and their families an income at harvest time," said Jack Byrne, Country Representative of Catholic Relief Services (CRS is a Caritas member). The floods in Pakistan started in late August and covered large areas of the country in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and [...]
Bishop Joseph Coutts, President of Caritas Pakistan, talks about the challenges Caritas faces in Pakistan six months after the country was devastated by extensive floods. How would you describe the situation six months after the floods? Bishop Coutts: There is still a lot to be done. In the areas we are working in, we are now moving from the early relief stage to reconstruction. In some regions however, especially in the South of Pakistan, people are still lacking the most basic things like food and clean water. This is a real conflict for us. On the one hand, there are people in need of emergency aid, but on the other hand, we also need to look towards reconstruction. Caritas can’t cover all the areas affected. The floods were just so extensive. We are doing all we can and cooperating with many other NGOs working here, but a lot more help is still needed. At [...]
By Jessica Howell, Programme and Advocacy Officer, Catholic Relief Services A wizened man whose mirthful eyes suggest more mischief than age, Ariz smirks when asked how old he is. “More than 50,” he said, to the chuckles of his friends and family standing nearby. There hasn’t been a lot to smile about lately though. The floods that tore through his village in southern Pakistan last summer stole much from Ariz – his land, his livestock, and most painfully, his son, Nazeef, who was to be married in one month. “I miss him very much.”
By Jessica Howell, Programme and Advocacy Officer, Catholic Relief Services “Ours was a love marriage,” said Soomri, a frail woman with almond-shaped eyes that seem to dance when thinks about her youth. “He was the only literate man in town,” she said of her husband, “And we were both favored by our parents.” The 75-year-old mother of five and grandmother of 23 lives in a small village in the northeast corner of Pakistan’s Sindh province. Described by her extended family as easily distracted, Soomri seems like she’d just rather tell stories than worry about anything else. With whoever will listen to her, she talks … about her village and the weather and her children. But mostly she talks about her husband.
By Jessica Howell, Programme and Advocacy Officer, Catholic Relief Services Dulshan Bajkani looks to be about 23 years old, but she says she doesn’t know for sure. Regardless of her age, she’s endured more in the last six months than any woman in her twenties should have to bear. Her nightmare began in early August, when record rainfalls throughout Pakistan caused the nearby Indus River to overflow its banks. She remembers hearing about the floods on the news; some people the village left right away but many others thought the warnings were exaggerated and stayed. But the water did come – in the middle of the night – and Dulshan, her husband, and her three daughters fled quickly. Most people left everything behind in the panic that ensued, running away without shoes or scarves and having time only to grab frightened children.
By Kamran Chaudhry On August 3, Zakaullah broke his right leg while fleeing from his house as floodwaters rose. “It was midnight. The rangers had raised the alarm that the water from Indus River would enter our village any moment but we kept hoping otherwise”, he said “I slipped in panic and broke my right leg on the spot”. Zakaullah was rushed to Fazalpur, a city about 8 kilometres from his home, where he was treated and now he walks with a help of a zimmer frame. He was one of the 900 beneficiaries at a Caritas distribution in Basti Lashari, a village in Rajan Pur district. But Basti Lashari was chosen for another reason, says the medical social worker who assisted Caritas team. “More than one disabled children in a single family is common here. The peasant women are usually on bare feet and do not use gloves to protect their hands during [...]