By Robin Gomes
Caritas Pakistan has appealed to Caritas Internationalis for aid to help deal with the heavy floods caused by intense monsoon rains this year.
“We are doing all we can with the resources at our disposal, but we need help. We need a lot of help,” Cardinal Joseph Coutts, Archbishop of Karachi, wrote to Caritas Internationalis, the confederation of Catholic charities worldwide.
According to the National Disaster Management Authority report of September 23, the death toll rose to 400 with 392 injured, besides immense loss to property. Sindh, the province of which Karachi is the capital, is among the most affected areas of the country.
Karachi worst hit
“We have no memory of heavy rains like the ones that fell on Karachi in the last two months,” the Cardinal wrote to Caritas Internationalis. Karachi, the country’s main port and largest city, with more than 20 million people, has been one of the worst-hit by urban flooding. Streets turned to rivers, as the sheer volume of water quickly overloaded the city’s dilapidated and ill-maintained drainage systems.
Cardinal Coutts explained that the modest amount of rain that has fallen in recent years has led to the accumulation of waste along the storm drains that run through the city, some of which are up to 17 kilometres long. The construction of illegal dwellings has also prevented rainwater from draining and has caused flooding.
Demolition of illegal homes and Covid-19
As a security measure, the 75-year old Cardinal explained, the Pakistani government has already decided to demolish tens of thousands of illegal dwellings. But no one knows if, when and how much of the promised compensation and new housing will come.
Cardinal Coutts pointed out that the floods came at an already dramatic time due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions. “For the poor, it is a double tragedy because many of them had lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and now they have lost or will lose their homes too.”
Caritas in relief work
Caritas Pakistan is distributing food parcels, drinking water, tents and plastic sheets to affected families. Its staff and volunteers are also providing first aid to the injured and facilitating search, rescue and evacuation operations.
“The immediate aid provided by Caritas has relieved the suffering of the population and made the affected people feel that they are not alone and abandoned,” said Cardinal Coutts, who was Caritas Pakistan chairperson until 2017. He commended bishops’ charity arm for the excellent training given to its staff and volunteers who have responded promptly to current and other disasters.
Caritas Internationalis says the South-Asian country is among the most affected in the world by the consequences of climate change and, in this year of the 5th anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Sì”, the cardinal invites us to reflect on the need to safeguard the environment. “These floods,” the cardinal said, “are the symptom and effect of the lack of care for our Common Home.” “And it is above all the poor and the most vulnerable who suffer because of it.” (Source: Caritas Internationalis)