"The disaster in Pakistan is immense, we had never seen something like that in the history of this country. Millions of refugees are arriving in the city and they need basically everything".
This is the beginning of a report of Stephen Sadiq, a coordinator of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Islamabad, which is active in these days to bring first aid to victims of the floods.
A group of the Community from Islamabad has repeatedly visited the area of Nowshera, about 110 km far from the capital, in the territories of North-West frontier towards Peshawar. It’s already an extremely troubled area due to continous clashes among Talibans, Pakistani Army, U.S. Army and other tribal factions. Every year at this time it’s hit by torrential rains but also by floodings of Indus river. The channels dug in the period of British colonialism and are often inefficient.
There is a large dam built by an italian company in the ‘60ies that feeds a power plant and many crops throughout the region. Even roads are impassable and in poor condition. The flood then moved up to the area of Karachi, spreading death and devastation along the 1000 km of the river.
A first collection of reliefs, made in Islamabad, allowed to proceed with the distribution of water and food, like bread or dates to celebrate Ramadan, along the highway leading to the capital, where there is a huge line of people who have nothing, only the clothes they wear; women and children didn’t eat since several days ago. Many are barefoot. They can not even go back simply because the roads are gone, swallowed or destroyed by water.
Another distribution was made in a tent city built by a Muslim NGO. But no one had yet brought food, medicines or other necessities to resist. The aid was a valuable opportunity to talk with victims. Pain and anger for not receiving assistance have gradually left space for calm and gratitude for the new Christian friends, who as strangers and unexpected ones came from the capital. The stories expressed the pain and anguish of those who were helpless and witnessed their houses collapsed, their relatives and even their cattle - that gave sustenance to these already poor peasants and shepherds- killed. Others have died or became seriously ill due to hot weather and contaminated water. The most urgent needs are plastic carpets for the tents, mattresses, pillows, sheets, mosquito nets against malaria, milk for children and infants, drinking water, cooking utensils, medicines and clothes.
Even further in the south, around Lahore, there are many displaced people, sometimes carried by military convoys that carried out the rescue, but now are unable to provide further assistance. In Lahore, Sheikupura and Sargodha collections have been organized in recent days, some in collaboration with Caritas.
Today and tomorrow the community of Lahore will check the situation in order to understand how and where to distribuite aids. Prayers will be organized in memory of the victims and of those who lost everything in Lahore and Islamabad on Thursday and Saturday.