Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is requesting donations to help more than 16 million people affected by several weeks of torrential heavy rain in Pakistan. Officials report it is the worst flooding to ever hit the country, with more than one-fifth of the country under water.
The United Nations reports that the flooding has affected more people than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 earthquake in the Kashmir region of Pakistan and the January earthquake in Haiti combined. A UN spokesman says while the death toll is relatively low compared to other disasters, the major concerns now are disease and food and water shortages.
CRS, which has worked in Pakistan since 1954, has been able to distribute emergency relief material to 6,400 people to date, given the difficulty in reaching the impacted areas. News reports claim all 63 bridges over the Swat River have been destroyed or badly damaged.
Carolyn Fanelli, Head of Programming and Acting Country Representative for CRS Pakistan, says staff members covered 25 miles on foot to reach people in remote areas made inaccessible by landslides. She says mules remain the only option for delivering the supplies to the suffering people. In addition to needing food, water and cooking utensils, tens of thousands of people lost their homes and are in need of plastic sheeting for temporary shelter.
"Our teams are battling the weather, the terrain and the immense scale of the disaster," Fanelli says." In places where water has begun to recede, it has left behind a trail of devastation.
"One of our staff members from Swat—in the north of Pakistan—told me that the entire map of his district has changed. The floodwaters cut a brand-new path through the land. There are places he doesn't even recognize now," she says.
The Catholic population of Pakistan is estimated at 1.3 million people out of a total of approximately 170 million. CRS Pakistan’s ongoing activities in the country include response to drought, the Afghan refugee crisis and earthquake emergency response and rebuilding process. In the non-emergency sectors, CRS focuses on water, agriculture, shelter, refugees, education, care and support to people living with HIV and AIDS, and teaching people how to support themselves in the long term in drought-prone areas.
To donate to help CRS address the needs of thousands of Pakistanis impacted by the flooding, please call 1-877-HELP-CRS, donate online at www.crs.org or send a check to Catholic Relief Services, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21203-7090. In the memo portion of your check, please write: Pakistan Flooding.
For more information, including stories from the scene, visit www.crs.org.
Above: Crowd of flood victims in Pakistan reach for relief supplies (CNS photo/Adrees Latif, Reuters, Aug. 10, 2010)