The Lahore diocesan team of Caritas Pakistan on a field visit (Photo: Supplied) 

By Kamran Chaudhry

Jul 21 2023

The devastating floods that claimed 99 lives, including 41 children, have prompted Church workers in Pakistan to engage in rescue and relief efforts to help the victims.

All the seven diocesan units of Caritas Pakistan, the Church’s social service arm, have been directed to collaborate with district governments to carry out life-saving activities,” said Amjad Gulzar, executive director of Caritas Pakistan.

The Lahore diocesan unit of Caritas Pakistan sent assessment teams to Our Lady of Sorrow parish in Kasur district in Punjab province on July 15 where the River Sutlej flooded 14 villages. The teams visited the affected villages on July 17.

“Still, four villages are inaccessible,” he added.

Gulzar said Archbishop Benny Travas of Karachi, chairperson of Caritas Pakistan, “has asked us to undertake essential measures in reaching out to communities affected by floods and raising awareness among residents in high-risk areas.”

According to a July 18 report by the state-run National Disaster Management Authority, 175 persons have also been injured, 170 livestock perished and 130 houses damaged, mostly in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, since June 25.  The two provinces recorded the highest number of deaths.

Arshad Mukhtar, a Christian farmer, was among villagers who left Nagar Amin Puur in Punjab province on foot after the Sutlej overflowed due to torrential monsoon rains. 

He was worried about his younger brother who stayed overnight on the farm.  

“He was alone in the fields and there were no mobile phone signals. I was worried about his safety as the road connecting the village with the nearby town was washed away,” Mukhtar told UCA News on July 19.

“Thankfully, he was rescued in an army truck.”  

Mukhtar, however, lost his rice cultivation on 45 acres of land which he acquired on lease.  

“Last night, the water rose by more than a foot. It’s a huge loss, we only know farming and are presently surviving on the corn crop reaped earlier. Nobody has helped us,” complained Mukhtar, whose potato cultivation was damaged in the floods in 2018 and 2019.

He, however, was spared last year when the floods affected 33 million people and killed 1,739, mostly in the southern Sindh province. 

The floods caused US$30 billion in damage to the South Asian nation’s struggling economy.

The Pakistan army and rangers have carried out relief and rescue operations in 14 flood-affected areas in Punjab. They have set up relief camps to evacuate the victims. 

The Pakistan Meteorological Department has forecast intermittent rainfall across the country till July 23.

On July 17, workers of Caritas Pakistan visited Chanda Singh village in Punjab, home to 4,500 families, including 45 Christian families, where Said Masih lost three acres of corn crop. 

The 70-year-old is now under a debt of about 1, 00,000 rupees (US $365.12). He had taken a loan.

“We used to return the amount with 20 percent interest after the harvest. We have become jobless. My whole crop is destroyed,” he said.

“We work with landlords. We sink when their crops sink.”

“The government has only provided rice cauldron two times. We are facing food shortages,” he said.

“Lord Jesus Christ will bless you. Try to provide a source,” he added in despair.

Pakistan is categorized as ‘highly’ vulnerable to the impacts of climate change by the UK-based Economist Intelligence Unit. – UCA News