Federal government pledges to match donations up to $3 million – deadline for matching donations is Sept. 28
By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register
[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News} – With one-third of Pakistan underwater, millions on the move, waterborne illnesses, diarrhea, lost crops, lost roads and bridges and electricity infrastructure, the humanitarian challenge is immense, said Scott Braunschweig.
Braunschweig is program officer for Development and Peace – Caritas Canada, Canada’s Catholic development agency, which has launched an appeal to provide relief for the devastation.
Donate online at www2.devp.org or call Toll Free: 1-888-234-8533 or send a labelled donation to Development and Peace Caritas Canada, 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor Montréal, Québec H3G 1T7.
Money raised between now and Sept. 28 for any of the Humanitarian Coalition member agencies will be matched by Ottawa, up to $3 million. Development and Peace participates in the Humanitarian Coalition through its partnership with Canada Foodgrains Bank.
Development and Peace has already cut a cheque for Caritas Pakistan for $40,000, but is looking to send much more.
“The rains are still coming down. With the massive size of it, there are still going to be needs,” Braunschweig said. “There are losses. There are still lives in danger. At this point the humanitarian community is aware and planning for the current and future situation. They know how this can evolve from here and that’s all going into the planning.”
Some might be surprised by how capable the Catholic Caritas network is in the 96-per-cent Muslim country.
“Obviously, Caritas works with all sorts of communities,” Braunschweig explained. “Caritas is pretty strong throughout the country. It has a strong presence in Quetta (a city of over one million) and Sind (a province of 48 million, including the Pakistani capital of Karachi, with its 15 million).”
Sind has been at the centre of the flooding, which has so far killed over 1,400 people and displaced more than 800,000.
In the early going of the relief effort, Caritas has reached over 2,000 families, bringing them cooked food, safe drinking water, hygiene kits, tents and sheets.
“Caritas is part of an even greater response,” Braunschweig said. “But you are literally saving lives.”
Development and Peace also plans to support longer term efforts to get communities back on their feet.
“You’re looking at agricultural land, 1.2 million hectares of agricultural land that is damaged,” Braunschweig said. “You might have to go and do something to repair that land because of all of the different soil that is now on top of it — on top of what was your topsoil.”
The Caritas planners are also concerned about the impact on education. Getting teachers and students back together in functioning schools will be a major focus.
Canada has so far pledged $25 million in country-to-country aid.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s bishops are pleading for help. In a virtual news conference hosted by Aid to the Church in Need, three bishops of Pakistan dioceses most affected by recent deadly monsoon flooding appealed for more funding for emergency food, repairing damaged homes and providing medical needs for the worst-hit victims in their provinces.
(With files from Catholic News Service)