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Church leaders in Pakistan warn of famine, epidemics in wake of floods

Suffering disastrous flooding in Pakistan, many people are turning to parishes in search of help.

“People value the Church as a reliable place to go for emergency assistance,” said three Pakistani bishops at a press conference last week.

Archbishop Benny Travas of Karachi, in southern Pakistan, said the Church is helping without regard to ethnic identity or religious affiliation.

This, unfortunately, is not something that can always be taken for granted, he said, adding that members of minorities, especially Christians and Hindus, have been turned away from aid distribution points and referred to the Church.

“This mentality of discrimination is dominant everywhere,” he said.

The floods have not only taken people’s homes, but also their livelihood, reported Bishop Samson Shukardin of Hyderabad.

As winter approaches, famine is therefore becoming a real threat, especially since rural areas have been particularly badly affected, said the bishop.

“The remote regions are not protected against flooding, only the big cities,” he added.

Rampant illness is also a concern, according to Bishop Travas. “Dengue fever and cholera are spreading. The hospitals are overwhelmed and are sending people away,” he said.

He also noted a shortage of mosquito nets to protect people from infection, adding that pharmacies are holding back supplies of medicine, further pushing up prices.

Flood-affected people wade through a flooded area with relief food bags as they return their homes on the outskirts of Jacobabad, Sindh province, on September 6, 2022. (AFP Photo)

Bishop Khalid Rehmat, apostolic vicar of Quetta, in western Pakistan, said one comfort in the very fraught situation is the great willingness to help, both from the international community and on the part of the Pakistani population.

“The people are poor, but generous,” he said.

Archbishop Travas said the government has promised about US$100 in emergency help to every family in the badly affected province of Sindh, but this is “really nothing compared to the losses which they have suffered.”

The three bishops said that currently the greatest needs are food, medicine, emergency shelter and mosquito nets.

They expressed their thanks to the Aid to the Church in Need, which provided immediate assistance, including aid packages for 5,000 of the worst affected families.

Although Christians make up less than two percent of the population of Pakistan, they very quickly managed to get a large support program up and running.

“Pakistan’s Christians have great faith,” said Bishop Rehmat. “They know that we can overcome all these difficulties.”

The worst monsoon flooding in 30 years, which began in mid-June, has devastated large parts of Pakistan. Six million people have been affected by the disaster and more than 1,500 deaths have been officially recorded.

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