Following the national church collection last weekend for the victims of flooding in Pakistan, Trócaire’s Paul Healy provides an update on how Trócaire is helping.

Trócaire is the official overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Update from Paul Healy, Trócaire’s Regional Manager in Islamabad

source – www.trocaire.org

I was in Nowshera on Sunday last, a small town in the mountains of northern Pakistan. Nowshera was a pretty town, known for its colonial barracks. It is not so pretty today. It is Boy in PeshwarChildren under 5 are particularly vulnerable as there is an increase in cholera and water-borne diseases.home to a scene of utter destruction.

I met a man called Nur Hussein Ikram sitting under a plastic sheet in the town. His house was lost. Nur sits on the village emergency committee in Noshwera. Trócaire set up the emergency committees in the immediate aftermath of the flooding. Their purpose is to decide which families are most in need of the aid that arrives and their membership is composed of ordinary villagers.

Nur told me how the vast majority of his village’s houses were destroyed, leaving a whole population homeless. That all along the river there was “nothing left” but scenes of total destruction. People have no food and no clean water.

I saw children filling plastic bottles of filthy water from the canals and bringing them back to their families for washing, cooking and even drinking. This can only lead to serious water-borne diseases. Already the first cases of cholera have been confirmed. This will get worse unless we can intervene as quickly as possible. This story is being played out along the 1,000 km of the Indus River from the Northern provinces all the way south to Karachi.

We’ve been involved in Pakistan for almost 40 years. And when the floods struck, we worked with local community groups we support in the affected areas within 36 hours. Around Nowshera and its neighbor, Peshawar, we were forced to travel by boat because of high waters.

Trócaire is providing food, water, water purification tablets, cooking utensils, high-energy biscuits for children and sanitary supplies to survivors. In Nowshera, in the northwest, our partners began providing pre-cooked meals to over 300 families the weekend the flooding began. In another area near the city of Peshawar, our partners are providing food, water and sanitary supplies to over 1,500 families in four villages. Families in Peshawar have lost everything and will need support in the coming weeks and months to rebuild their lives.

We also focused on Sindh province, where the waters eventually flowed, helping communities prepare to move quickly to higher ground when the waters came. Families stockpiled food, water and other essentials. As the rains continued to pour, our evacuation plans became a reality. We have so far helped evacuate 8,000 such people trapped in at-risk areas around Manchar Lake in the southern province of Sindh.

In the northwest of Pakistan, 5,700 families – over 50,000 people – have received food packages and will continue to do so for as long as is needed; 4,500 families received packages containing blankets, plastic sheets for shelter and kitchen utensils; and 5,000 families have received hygiene kits.

We’re ensuring that children and the most vulnerable are receiving enough calories every day to protect their health. Local people are helping us direct our aid where it’s most needed. This local knowledge is invaluable in allowing us to respond quickly and effectively and to meet the people’s needs.

For example, since the flooding took place we have begun the Holy month of Ramadan. This means many people – even in the midst of this emergency – fast all day, every day, only eating after sundown. We put dates into our food packs because traditionally, people start their first meal after sundown with dates which are easy on the stomach after a day of fasting.

To some extent, the scale of the crisis here hasn’t yet been fully recognised by the international community.

The number affected by the Pakistan flooding is even greater than the Haiti earthquake and Asian tsunami combined. But the political repercussions could be even more overwhelming than that.

This emergency is not simply about the flooding. Pakistan is a fragile democracy, vulnerable to radical elements. Its stability is central to peace and security across Asia and the Middle East.

One of the biggest humanitarian crises of the decade is taking place in a politically fragile country that is a lynchpin of global security. The Pakistani Taliban has already spoken out against the government’s acceptance of western aid.

We have seen in other crises around the world that when a government is too weak to respond in certain areas that space is often filled by radical groups. Humanitarian work needs to be free from military or paramilitary interference. There is an ongoing conflict in the north of Pakistan and warring parties must not hinder the urgent response being carried out.

The image of that small child with the bottle of filthy water for her family continues to haunt me. That family and hundreds of thousands like them need our help urgently- not only in the coming weeks but in the coming months and years that it will take to rebuild whole communities. We are making a real impact but we need all the support we can get from Ireland.

To find out more about Trócaire’s work in Pakistan please visit our Pakistan Emergency Appeal page or call 1850 408 408.