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MUMBAI, India – Catholic leaders in Pakistan are working to help people affected by devastating floods that have displaced over 7 million people.
“Hyderabad is worst affected,” said Bishop Samson Shukardin.
“People in some areas have lost everything, homes, livestock etc. There’s grave risk of waterborne diseases. I have appealed to local and national authorities for help,” he told Crux.
Hyderabad is the second largest city in Pakistan’s Sindh province.
The monsoon rains and flooding, which many experts say are fueled by climate change, have affected 33 million people, caused at least 1,596 deaths and damaged 2 million homes across Pakistan.
About half a million flood survivors are homeless, living in tents and makeshift structures.
In the past two months, Pakistan sent nearly 10,000 additional doctors, nurses and other medical staff to serve survivors at health facilities and at medical camps across Sindh province.
About 18,000 doctors and nearly 38,000 paramedics are treating survivors in the province, according to data from the health department.
Floods have damaged more than 1,000 health facilities in Sindh, forcing survivors to travel to other areas to seek medical help.
Shukardin said his city is getting help.
“The Vatican through the nuncio distributed money to various dioceses,” the Hyderabad bishop told Crux.
“People from Karachi responded generously with food, relief, and mosquito nets, which are a necessity now,” he said.
Amjad Gulzar, the executive director of Caritas Pakistan, said in a statement that the Catholic Church has been on the forefront of humanitarian efforts since the beginning of the floods, through parishes, Catholic organizations including Caritas Pakistan, and through the work of religious congregations.
“Overall, through Caritas Pakistan, the Catholic Church has been able to provide relief assistance to about 20,000 flood-affected families including food, cooked food, hygiene kits, and safe drinking water, portable toilets, and tents/shelter material, health services through free medical camps, kitchen sets and emergency cash assistance, as well,” he said.
“Caritas Pakistan has outreach through different programs and projects across the country in all flood-affected provinces. In about 30 flood-affected districts, Caritas Pakistan has a presence prior to floods. Therefore, Caritas Pakistan has longstanding trust with communities, and which is now helping Caritas Pakistan in responding to the flood situation,” Gulzar continued.
“There are large numbers of registered volunteers who extend our outreach in those areas where Caritas Pakistan do not have regular projects, but the presence of volunteers facilitates in reaching the vulnerable communities affected by floods. Secondly, there are parishes and churches, which are also helping to reach the flood-affected communities in the flood-hit areas of Pakistan,” he said.
Gulzar said the Catholic Church has planned through Caritas Pakistan to establish temporary learning centers in flood-hit areas to provide the learning opportunities for children, as most of the schools in flood-hit areas are being used as relief camps for displaced populations.
“Tent villages will be established in those areas where stagnant water is still there and most of the families are unable to return to their houses. Relief distributions and free medical camps are also planned all over the country and thousands will get free health services at their doorsteps,” he said.
“As the destruction is huge and there will be much need, Caritas Pakistan is planning a long-term rehabilitation to restore the lives of the flood affected. Keeping in view the extent of damages, it will take years to rebuild,” he added.
“Caritas Pakistan will contribute in its rehabilitation phase through shelter repair, restoration of wash facilities, preparation of land for agriculture revival, return of education in schools and increasing livelihood opportunities for flood-affected people,” he said.
The devastation has led the United Nations to consider sending more money than the $160 million it committed during its flash appeal to support Pakistan’s flood response.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who is in New York, will speak at the U.N. General Assembly on Friday to seek more help from the international community.
On Wednesday, Julien Harneis, the U.N. resident coordinator in Pakistan, said: “The humanitarian situation remains dire in flood-affected areas of Pakistan, with widespread damage to physical infrastructure and ongoing harm to people and livestock.”
Outbreaks of diarrhea, typhoid and malaria are increasing rapidly, he said, as millions of people sleep in temporary shelters or in the open in close proximity to stagnating water.
Over 134,000 cases of diarrhea and 44,000 cases of malaria were reported in the hardest hit area of Sindh this past week.
This article incorporated material from the Associated Press.