Church-led charities in Pakistan have stepped up their flood relief efforts in response to a message from the Pope, despite being hampered by devastating conditions.
The aid response gained momentum as Pope Benedict XVI expressed his condolences in a telegram to Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, head of the Pakistan bishops' conference.
"The Holy Father commends the deceased to the Almighty" and "prays for all involved in providing assistance to the victims," said the message, according to the Catholic News Service.
Cooking equipment, hygiene kits and bedding were being delivered to severely hit areas but John Joseph, of Caritas Islamabad-Rawalpindi, said: "Access to a lot of the affected areas is still impossible, and it's hard to organize distribution amid the panic".
The United Nations reported on Monday that the floods have affected more people than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 earthquake in the Kashmir region of Pakistan and the January earthquake in Haiti combined, according to CNS.
Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based umbrella agency for national Catholic charities, launched an appeal yesterday asking member agencies for $5.5 million to fund Catholic relief efforts in Pakistan over the next three months.
"The situation grows increasingly desperate," the appeal said, adding that more than 1,600 people had died and about 14 million people were directly affected by the flooding.
"Raging floodwaters have washed away homes, bridges, schools, water systems and medical facilities" in five provinces, said the Caritas Internationalis appeal.
"With continuing rains and floods spreading to more areas, the challenge before us is growing by the day," Carolyn Fanelli, head of programming and acting country representative for Catholic Relief Services in Pakistan, told Catholic News Service Aug. 10 from her office.
"We have already distributed emergency relief material to 6,400 people and our target is being regularly revised upward," she said.
Nasrullah Khan, head of the Catholic Relief Services office in mountainous Besham, 300 km north of Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, said, "Our staff have covered up to 40 kilometers on foot to remote areas where the people are in great suffering.
"Mules remain the only option for us to (get) the material to those in remote areas made inaccessible by landslides," Khan told CNS on Tuesday.
Church agencies step up relief work as Pakistan struggles with flood (Catholic News Service)
PHOTO CREDIT, VIDEO
Pakistan Flood Aftermath on YouTube