The press office for the Salesians reported this week that the congregation is helping more than 150,000 people in Pakistan affected by the severe flooding that has already taken the lives of 1,500. An additional 20 million Pakistanis are suffering from shortages of drinking water and food.
Fr. Peter Zago, director of the Salesian operations in the city of Quetta, recently told Vatican Radio that while they have been able to assist many families, international aid still has not been able to reach the area. “This morning we received around 100 families and gave them what is essential for at least a month: flour and oil, … some beans and medicine.” The priest added that several of the children they have seen are “presenting symptoms of cholera and other deceases due to non-treated drinking water.”
“Here the U.N. is not yet present,” he continued. “We are a private institution at work. We have 80,000 euros ($101,500) and we are the only ones helping around here, looking after the families most in need.”
Fr. Zago said he realizes that when the funds run out he will have to stop the humanitarian help.
Disease has also become a problem. “The north of the country has been hit by cholera. To my knowledge there are more than 10,000 who have died of cholera, but no one wants to count them as casualties.
There are “25,000 soldiers, who could easily give a helping hand, but are kept in the Swat valley, to stop the Taliban and therefore there are no personnel to help.”
Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad set aside August 24 as a day of prayer among Catholics for the 1,500 victims and the more than 20 million Pakistanis who have had to evacuate.