In the wake of massive floods affecting hundreds of thousands of people, the Catholic Bishop of Hyderabad has warned of a deepening crisis. Poor nutrition and a lack of clean water mean a cholera epidemic is “imminent,” while the destitute could face starvation in a time of “skyrocketing” inflation.
Writing in an aid application to the international pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Max Rodrigues described the aftermath of the floods and recounted an effort to travel to the worst-affected regions to provide basic help.
“On the way we saw many villages and vast areas submerged and people who had fled from the floods sitting on higher grounds along the main highway without food and shelter, waiting for some help to arrive.”
The numbers of people migrating, he reported, have “never (been) seen in our history before.”
“It was an unforgettable and most distressing experience for us to see the whole city of Sujawal under water and army boats rescuing people who were marooned.”
Sujawal has a population of about 250,000. According to the bishop, 91 bridges were damaged or destroyed by the floods and roads to most of the affected areas are impassable.
Official government figures put the death toll at 1,650 people, with 1,100 being from Sindh province. About 500,000 people are thought to have been affected.
“The scale of the disaster has been so imaginably large that it seemed impossible to reach out to all the affected victims of the flood,” Bishop Rodrigues continued, according to ACN.
“Tough days lie ahead of us. Since millions of people have lost everything and don’t have money, people may face starvation,” he stated. “The aftermath of the floods may be worse. God help us.”
The bishop said that he has organized a task force to provide food, soap, water and mosquito nets to those most in need. Religious sisters at St. Mary’s High School in Sukkur have organized teams of volunteers to provide cooked food and water for hundreds of people.
ACN has sent about $64,000 to Sindh Province bringing its total aid so far to about $135,000. The latest aid payment will provide for basic needs such as food, water purification filters and mosquito nets.
Other aid has gone to Multan in the south of Punjab; Quetta in Baluchistan province; and Nowshera, a town west of Islamabad.
Some sources indicate that Pakistan government officials refused to shore up the banks of the River Indus which ran through regions populated by minority groups including Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. On Monday Fides reported that 15 people died after a Pakistani politician, desperate to save his property, ordered the diversion of flood waters into the Christian village of Kokharabad.
A reported 377 people were made homeless because of the diversion and crops suffered major damage.