It is especially given to those who may not otherwise receive aid, whether they are Christian, Hindu or Muslim. Though it may be seen as a, “drop in the ocean”, of the massive flood water damage, it is also a “Godsend” to people who are badly in need of food rations and other assistance.
However, Christians complain to me. “People come to our areas but when they know that we are Christians, the aid is given to other people. The aid comes from Christian countries for victims of the flood waters but it is given to Muslims.”
I visited the Office of the Minister of Minorities a few times to inform them of discrimination towards the Christian Community in the distribution of aid. I also made a request at the Office of the New Zealand High Commission for aid that I would be accountable for. Hopefully in both cases there will be a positive response.
Many groups/persons are happy when disasters hit Pakistan as there is much embezzlement of funds and material aid. It is said here that, “they fill their stomachs and pockets.” Many stalls have been set up with the aid of loud speakers crying out for help for the flood victims. One of these I visited in Karachi had “mountains’’ of items that had been donated stacked along a side street.
UN Secretary General’s Visit
Antonio Guterres visited Pakistan earlier this month to see with his own eyes the flood disaster situation. He stated, “Pakistan and other developing countries are paying a horrific price for the intransigence of the big emitters that continue to bet on fossil fuels. From Islamabad I am making a global appeal: Stop the madness, invest in renewable energy now. End the war with Nature. Today it is Pakistan, tomorrow it will be another country.”
Much financial aid has been promised by International Countries but much has not yet arrived. According to the PM Shabaz Sharif, “Friendly countries had started looking at Pakistan as a country that has always asked/begged for money.” He also stated that in this present disaster Pakistan is not asking for charity, but for justice.
The truth of the matter is that this flood is caused by Climate Change and nature has unleashed its fury on Pakistan. Pakistan has a population of approximately 225 million people. It contributes less than 1% in Greenhouse Gas Emissions and so therefore is paying the price for the ecological negligence of others.
This week in the village of Baharo, with the help of Caritas, 18 Christian and Hindu families were given bundles consisting of food rations, hygiene kits, mosquito nets and even toothbrushes and paste. “The canal overflowed with waves of water flooding the land and destroying the healthy cotton crop. We had only made one picking, whereas normally we have about seven pickings. We had to borrow money to have food to eat.”
They were delighted to receive the rations. This will keep the “wolf from the door”, for the present time and for the future there is some hope. The rice crop suffered much damage, yet although swathes of it has fallen down, much is able to be retrieved by the peasant farmers cutting it with their sickles. So there is hope in obtaining their daily rice bread. There is a shortage of vegetables such as tomatoes and onions so these are rolling into Pakistan from Afghanistan via the Khyber Pass.
It is estimated that several hundred thousand people who have had to flee their homes are camping on higher ground, such as the sides of roads. Large numbers do not have toilet facilities which results in the high risk of falling ill to diseases such as Malaria, the dreaded Dengue Fever, cholera, dysentery and skin diseases.
Many poor people have fallen victim and died. Recently I brought two patients to a health clinic called, Peoples’ Participative Health Initiative. This has been set up so that poor people can receive free treatment from doctors and free medicine. There were many patients there and Dr Mithulal told me that they are sick as a result of the excessive rains.
It is estimated that women give birth monthly to 73,000 babies in makeshift shelters, such as tents. Naturally they are deeply upset about this situation. Hygiene kits contain helpful materials for them. Some contain clean cloth pieces that women use during their periods as many are unaware of sanitary pads.
Separately, training is being given to women so that in the future they will be empowered to stand on their own feet. e.g. sewing centres and learning embroidery.
Global action needs to be taken, “before it is too late,” to address the Climate Change Crisis so that Pakistan will again not suffer this calamity. Locally, Pakistan also needs internal action planning. In this regard it is stated that Pakistan needs to slash non-development expenditure, including the large defence budget.
Petrol needs to be rationed as well as a ban on non-essential imports so as to generate more finances that will be required for flood rehabilitation and flood prevention.
With the flood waters slowly receding, rehabilitation and the rebuilding of homes and agricultural lands are essential. This is urgently needed so that the effected victims will be able to return to some sort of normal life, given the changed circumstances. Strict laws are required so that the rebuilding of houses etc. does not happen on the flood plains.
Stop banks need to be constructed so that the flow of water is directed away from populated areas. Small dams and reservoirs could be built to present flooding. Therefore, with better land development practices, improved water management and a government that is better prepared, the hope is that this mammoth tragedy will not be repeated.