A boy wades in flood water near his home in Shikarpur, Pakistan A boy wades in flood water near his home in Shikarpur, Pakistan 

Caritas Pakistan on the frontline of flood disaster

The Executive Director of Caritas Pakistan, Amjad Gulzar, speaks about the work the organization is doing to assist those hit by severe floods in the country.

By Lydia O’Kane

As Pakistan continues to be hit by unprecedented flash floods which have washed away roads, crops, infrastructure, and bridges, Caritas Pakistan is one of the aid organizations on the frontline of a catastrophe the country’s climate change minister has called a "climate-induced humanitarian disaster of epic proportions.”

The Catholic aid agency is joining forces with its member Caritas organizations to share resources aimed at supporting those impacted.

Over a thousand people have been killed, and more than 1500 injured by the historic floods.

It is estimated that more than 1 million homes have been damaged, leaving tens of thousands displaced.

Amjad Gulzar is the Executive Director of Caritas Pakistan. He told Vatican News that in early July they started responding in the badly affected areas of Karachi and Baluchistan. Since then, flooding has wreaked havoc on 116 out of 160 districts of the country, and he has seen at first hand the effect that these floods have had on people’s lives.

“I personally went to two dioceses, one in Baluchistan and then the south Punjab district Rajanpur. And I have seen more than 20 kilometres area that was under the water and many villages there have been disappeared. And our team members, they provided their immediate shelter or tents and cooked food to the victims. And we have seen the misery and the vulnerability that was evident. And we could see that a level of response that hasn't been made by the government so far in those areas,” the executive-director said.

Listen to the interview

Relief efforts

Tens of thousands of families who were evacuated from their homes are currently being housed in state-run camps, while others have been spending nights in the open.

When asked what the immediate needs are, Mr Gulzar said:

“I would say that immediate shelter, mosquito nets, food packages, and the food for the people who do not have anything along with them, like their belongings, they have been washed away, so they don't have anything. So at least they should be provided these things, so that they at least can get the emergency relief. And later, after one or two months, a process of early recovery and rehabilitation that takes place. But I think at the moment they should be provided these basic, immediate needs to meet their needs during such situations.”

He also stressed that the emergence of water-borne diseases is a concern, which is why medical camps, “are very important for providing the immediate health services to the people.”

Amjad Gulzar, the Executive Director of Caritas Pakistan
Amjad Gulzar, the Executive Director of Caritas Pakistan

Food shortages and price hikes

According to the country’s planning minister, Ahsan Iqbal, it could take five years for the nation to get back on its feet, while in the near future it will have to deal with acute food shortages.

As the rains continue to wash away crops, leaving people without livelihoods, the Caritas director said that this has also led to a further increase in prices.

 “We could say that these price hikes, the people were already going through this problem. But this has added to the vulnerability, we could say this flood situation, because prices are increasing and people already had lost everything.”

He continued by saying that agricultural land has been washed away and 700,000 livestock that people depend on have been killed.

Gaining access

One of the biggest problems for aid agencies has been getting access to people due to damaged infrastructure such as roads and bridges.

“I think there are difficulties, but for the humanitarian community and the government relief department, they are making maximum possible efforts to reach out to the affected,” noted Mr Gulzar.

As this historic rainfall shows no signs of abating, the executive director said it could take another two to three weeks for the water levels to go down. In the meantime, Caritas Pakistan is already assisting 3,000 families, and is hoping that number will reach 10,000 beneficiaries.

Disaster risk reduction

These floods are considered worse than those that hit Pakistan in 2010, but on a positive note, the Caritas director said that they are now better prepared.

“After the 2010 floods, we had invested so much on disaster risk reduction interventions in the country, and we have seen in those areas at least, the impacts of the flood emergencies. They are as compared to the previous time. They are lesser. And we think that if we invest on disaster risk reduction related components at the community level, then the communities are fully prepared to respond to such situations to minimize the sufferings and impacts of any unexpected situation; natural disasters and flood-related disasters.”

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30 August 2022, 15:36