Pakistan flood relief shows donor’s generosity at work

February 8, 2011

Fr. Tomás King provided the following brief summary of the work carried out with the generous funding received from Columban benefactors and friends. It covers parishes where Columbans work plus other places where Columban funding supported relief work.

Two parishes where Columbans work were directly affected; a rural part of the parish of Badin where Frs. Daniel O’Connor and Feliciano Fatu work, plus neighboring Jati where Fr. Robert McCulloch ministers. Funding also supports the relief work of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Hyderabad, where Fr. Robert McCulloch also ministers. St. Mary’s High School, Sukkur, St. Mary’s High School, Hyderabad, and the parish team of Kotri, which is just across the Indus River from Hyderabad, all carried out relief work that was supported by Columban funding. The vast majority of the people to whom the flood relief has been given are Tribal Peoples who live along the banks of the Indus River.

In the immediate aftermath of the flooding the priority was to get food, medicines and shelter to flood affected people. It is estimated that more than a thousand families received food rations and clean drinking water. Food rations consist of drinking water, sugar, spices, tea leaves, lentils, onions, potatoes, biscuits and milk powder, clean drinking water plus nutritional supplements to deal with malnutrition issues. Where necessary this relief work is still ongoing. As the cold winter nights set in relief help expanded to include warm clothes, blankets and mattresses. 4,000 quilts have been distributed.

JATI
Jati is located near the Indus River. It is part of Hyderabad Cathedral Parish, where Fr. McCulloch ministers. There are 27-Christian families in Jati. The people have their own land and are a self-supporting Church and community. One diocesan priest and two diocesan seminarians come from this community. All children attend school. Most families suffered total or major crop loss; seven had their homes completely inundated. They need assistance to carry on until the next harvest in April but in a way that they are able to retain their self-respect and dignity. Since September, 21 families were and will continue to be provided with $95 and six families $47 per month through April 2011. The families themselves have established that these amounts are sufficient for them. In November each flood affected family was provided with sufficient seed of either wheat or sunflower, and fertilizer to sow five acres of crops.

ST. ELIZABETH’S HOSITAL, HYDERABAD
The Mobile Medical Outreach Team of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital has given medical care to 12,259 people: 4,169 women, 2,631 men and 5,459 children. The hospital has conducted a Mobile Medical Outreach since 2006. Many of these people live in the areas affected by the floods in 2010 so the hospital has been in the privileged position of being able to accurately assess the needs of people during and after the flood and carry out the appropriate response. The most common medical issues are skin diseases, typhoid, malaria, gastro-enteritis and eye infections. The medical team consists of 2 doctors, 2 male nurses, 2 female nurses, 2 midwives, a laboratory technician, and a driver who is statistician/record-keeper. The medical team members are Christian, Muslim, and Hindu. They give a good witness in interfaith compassion. The Mobile Medical Outreach goes out 3 times a week. Each place is followed up every 8-10 days. As needed, surgical and delivery cases are brought back to the hospital for care which is provided free of cost.

HOUSE RECONSTRUCTION

The majority of people are bonded agricultural laborers who live on the land of feudal landlords. Their lifestyle is transitory and many move from landlord-to-landlord on a regular basis. It is neither possible nor viable for them to build permanent dwellings. However, the traditional dwellings are warm in winter and cool in summer and have generations of wisdom behind them.

Building materials are being provided to enable the traditional dwelling to be more long lasting and to be rebuilt quickly, which will ensure that the people do not fall further into debt to the landlords by taking loans to rebuild. They are also easy to dismantle and move on when necessary. Material for the reconstruction of 300 houses has been provided. For each house a steel girder for central beam of the roof, wooden rafters, thatching material, windows, and an iron door are provided. The people then very quickly, on a community basis, use these materials to reconstruct the houses.

When all the houses in a village are built, a solar power unit is installed in each house sufficient for 3 power-saver lights. Each unit costs $341. We believe that this major development in the quality of living of the people after the flood is a sign of hope for the future. So far 53 solar power units have been installed and the supplier cannot keep up with the demand!

After the solar power units, the next step is to build bathing and toilet facilities, the construction of which most landlords are agreeing to. This will be a significant step forward in ongoing preventative health care. It is hoped to have 1,500 such homes built by the end of January 2011. The solar power installations will keep going as quickly as the supplier can provide and install them.

LAND PURCHASE

Since the floods hit the Sindh province, the Columban Sisters have been journeying with and providing flood relief fora group of 118 families who sought shelter on the dry barren land off the Super Highway linking Karachi and Hyderabad. They fled the lands of the landlord where they were working as share croppers when the floods came.

Some families no longer wish to return to the lands where they were bonded and prefer to stay near the city of

Hyderabad. Settling near a city will give them the opportunity to find work plus an opportunity to educate their children as well as escaping the scourge of bonded labor. The Columban Sisters identified suitable land that will be able to house around 48 families and purchased it. Some funding from Columban Fathers benefactors has been used as part payment for the land purchase.

FUTURE PLANS

1. The Mobile Medical Outreach from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital will continue. It is planned to set up two teams in January 2011 to cover increasing demand and need.

2. Food rations and winter clothing will continue to be provided as necessary.

3. Hand pumps are also being provided which is a relatively economical means of providing a regular supply of clean drinking water. It also saves women a lot of time and effort from having to walk long distances for a water supply.

4. Housing and long term rehabilitation: many communities of people live on the land of landowners. Many of these have been displaced due to the floods and now wish to settle near cities where work and schooling and other services are more easily available. Also it will help them break away from bonded labor.

In response to this need suitable land is being sought with a view to purchase. In addition a survey of the number of families who may want to move from the land to city life where, relatively speaking, they will have more stability and control over their future is being conducted.

Finally, it is a well-known fact that there is a lot of corruption in Pakistan at all levels, especially in state institutions. Church institutions are not immune from it either. So it is a challenge to disburse and use the significant funding received to ensure it reaches the people in need. As the Columban Fathers are missionaries with a long presence in the country and an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the culture, for us the challenge is considerably easier.

Again sincere thanks for your generosity and support.