Heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan have destroyed thousands of homes, roads, bridges and farms for the third year in a row. The 2010 floods were the worst in recent history, with a fifth of the country underwater. The 2011 and 2012 floods also caused damage across vast areas. Caritas Pakistan Executive Director Amjad Gulzar says that the current situation is already worse than the last two years.
With more heavy rain expected over the coming weeks, the situation may get much worse. Caritas staff members are on the ground working with people in need.
Read an interview with Amjad Gulzar followed by a radio interview with Andrew Schaefer, the Country Representative for CRS Pakistan.
What has been the impact of the floods?
The whole country experienced a second spell of the monsoon from 31 July to 4 August. The heavy showers triggered flash floods in different parts and caused widespread loss and damage, leaving an impact on habitat, daily life, livelihoods and transport.
According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the floods have claimed 84 lives, forced 81,674 people from their homes, destroyed 135,076 acres of crops and killed a large number of animals.
The most affected districts are Rajanpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Sialkot (Punjab Province), Naseerabad, Jaffarabad, Jal Magsi, Lora Lai, Turbat (Balochastan Province), Jacobabad, Thatta, Karachi (Sindh Province), Chatral, DI Khan and Peshawar (Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa Province).
What help do people need?
Hundreds of villages are inundated. People need food, drinking water, shelter and healthcare.
The flood victims depend on the emergency relief and support from the government. It has provided assistance in a few affected areas to save lives and limit loss of crops, livestock and other assets. The Army and Navy have organised search and rescue operations to save human lives during the inundation.
The task is too large and the government is unable to reach all areas.
What is Caritas Pakistan doing to help?
Caritas Pakistan’s emergency teams are in the field to assess the situation and to coordinate with the local authorities on what is needed.
Caritas Pakistan has pledged its reserve funds to support 100 most affected families with emergency food support and organise emergency health camps in District Rajanpur in coordination with the local government.
Is the situation going to get worse as we move into main flood season in September?
Heavy rainfall continues in north-eastern Punjab, causing flooding in Sialkot, Narowal and Gujrat districts along the water channels astride the Chenab and Ravi rivers.
Meteorological forecasts indicate relatively heavier rains are expected in upper Punjab and KP and moderate rains across western and southern parts of the country in the coming days.
How does it compare with floods last year and in 2010 to 2011?
If we compare this flood with 2010 then this was not as large as the flood 2010. But it is bigger than flood 2011 and flood 2012. But like it is mentioned that met department has forecasted that more rains are expected in coming days which may multiply the damages and impact.
Are the areas affected this year the same as hit before?
Some affected areas are the same like Rajanpur, D G Khan in South Punjab, District Sialkot, District Naseerabad, Jafaerabad, Jacobad and Thatta.
But some are new areas like Jhal Magsi, Loralai and Turbat (Balochastan Province), District Narowal (Punjab Province), Chitral, D I Khan, Peshwar (KP Province) and Karachi (Sindh Province).
What can be done to stop annual floods causing so much damage?
Government and other stakeholders should initiate some structural mitigation projects like river and canal embankments, water reservoirs, disaster preparedness, plantation, advocacy against deforestation, evacuation routes, retaining walls, community training on emergency preparedness and disaster resistant habitat.
In 2011, Caritas Pakistan initiated a Community Based Disaster Risk Management programme in 86 hazard prone villages and rehabilitated some mitigation and prevention interventions like construction of evacuation routes, embankments, retaining walls, tree plantation and volunteers training to respond the emergency situation.
It is encouraging that the areas in which the community volunteers and influential were trained they were able to monitor the water levels in close-by rivers and canals and developed early warning system in their communities and kept on informing the community members through loud speakers to let the community be vigilant for emergency escape during the flood.
The success stories on the community responsiveness and activism will be shared with our partners at later stage after thorough study.
Caritas Pakistan requests the humanitarian actors to step forward and join hands to support the victims of this natural disaster. The solidarity of the humanitarian partners in the past is also acknowledged and we expect the same this time also.
Catholic is among the aid agencies on the ground in Pakistan. Andrew Schaefer is the Country Representative for CRS Pakistan, and he spoke to Vatican Radio’s Giulia Cirillo about what is being done to support victims of the latest crisis.