Flood anniversary and the role of Caritas Pakistan
Pakistan floods one year on
27 July 2011
Water can be your best friend or worst foe - as last year's devastating floods in Pakistan showed.
Pakistan had seen nothing like it in 80 years when monsoon rains swept across the country in the summer of 2010. The subsequent floods affected 18 million people and put one-fifth of the country under water. People lost their homes and possessions, livelihoods and in some cases their lives.
One year on, Caritas has helped rebuild lives and communities by providing food, water, shelter, medical assistance, counselling and provided them with many of the items they lost in the floods. The focus is on rebuilding lives whereas in the early months Caritas worked hard to respond to the immediate emergency.
Caritas Pakistan immediately sent assessment teams to some of the worst affected
areas. The disaster had hit hard in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and
Balochistan provinces. Bishops in dioceses in these areas accompanied assessment
teams to bring hope and to use the Church network to provide aid as quickly as
Caritas member organisations including Caritas Austria, Catholic Relief Services
(USA), Cordaid (the Netherlands), Caritas Germany, Caritas Switzerland and
Trócaire (Ireland) worked with Caritas Pakistan and launched emergency
programmes in different regions, sending staff and aid from their countries.
Caritas Internationalis helped coordinate efforts, sent out emergency experts to
give support and launched an emergency appeal for A US$5.5 million (4.3 million
euro). Once the true scale of the disaster was known, this figure was doubled.
Caritas spent over US$10.6 million (7.5 million euro) in the first five months
The aim was to reach people as quickly as possible in the immediate period after
the disaster. The floods meant many places werenˇ¦t accessible by car or truck so
Caritas sometimes used donkeys and staff sometimes found themselves wading
through floodwaters and mud.
Over 2 million hectares of crops were lost, markets flooded out and transport
difficult, the flood survivors faced the daily challenge of finding enough to
eat. Caritas started to give out food packages containing rice, flour, pulses,
powdered milk, ghee, spices, sugar and tea.
Water was everywhere yet not drinkable because it was contaminated with sewage
and disease. Water pipes had been washed away and wells flooded out. Caritas
gave out jerry cans and water purification cans following the floods so people
had drinking and cooking water. It provided emergency sanitation in the form of
latrines to help avoid a public health crisis.
When their homes were washed away, many people sought shelter in public
buildings or with friends and relatives. Caritas gave out tents and built
insulated shelters which would help alleviate the overcrowding.
Caritas also set up over 400 mobile health clinics which treated 70,000 people
in the first five months after the disaster. Trained medical staff treated
people for ailments brought on by the floods such as stomach upsets, chest
infections and skin conditions. They ensured that people continued treatment for
long-term illnesses such as diabetes, they provided immunizations and helped
keep at bay the malnutrition which goes hand-in-hand with disasters where the
amount of nutritious food available is limited.
Further help was given to help recuperate some of what flood survivors had lost.
This included distributions of clothes, bedding, kitchen utensils and hygiene
Caritas helped rebuild water systems and developed projects so farmers could get
back to rearing cattle and growing food. Cash-for-work projects encouraged
communities to rebuild infrastructure so markets could be accessed and could
Counselling was provided to help people overcome the trauma of the disaster and
a particular focus was put on protecting women so they could have safe places
and access to support at such a vulnerable time.
Caritas is now focusing on supporting Pakistanis in repairing the damage the floods did to their lives. This means accompanying them in rebuilding their communities through construction and farming and activities which will see people returning to work. Investment in the future is made by helping people acquire useful skills and through projects to plant trees, which will help prevent landslides and such devastation in future floods.