The Covid-19 pandemic is driving many into poverty, affecting our project partners and those they serve. It has reached many countries where ACN is present supporting the Church and vulnerable Christians as they adapt to the changing needs. In the current context, our strategy is to focus on the subsistence of our core partners: priests and sisters as they care for the most vulnerable communities around the world. Answering their call, we have committed to respond to the urgent need of the Christian communities whose suffering the pandemic is exacerbating.
In Pakistan, Christians belong not just to a religious minority but to the socially disadvantaged groups. They are the ones with unstable jobs, fragile livelihoods most often earning a daily wage as hotel, restaurant, factory or domestic workers. The Christians are therefore suffering particularly from this crisis as many are losing their means of subsistence. The situation is ‘catastrophic and becoming alarming for the Christians in Pakistan’, to quote Archbishop Shaw. Pakistan has little in terms of welfare programs, and those they have will not include minorities.
There are many vulnerable people who live below the poverty line and are unable to buy food even in normal circumstances. They live in small houses; and there is lack of awareness and resources in the community to protect themselves from the Covid-19 virus. People are very concerned as to how to feed their children and families. They are financially weak and cannot bear the devastating impact of the lockdown, which has deprived them socially and economically. As always is the case the poorest and the vulnerable minorities are worst affected.
In the recent weeks ACN has been asked insistently by our project partners in three Dioceses, Islamabad-Rawalpindi and Faisalabad Diocese and Lahore Archdiocese, to support those suffering the consequences of the Covid-19 crisis and the ensuing lockdown and economic standstill.
In a first instance, last week in response to their plea, we offered mass-stipends to the priests of the Archdiocese of Lahore, who were to share this grant in their communities. However, it became apparent that given the dramatic levels of poverty of the Christians in Lahore, this is not enough to feed all the hungry people in the parishes of these Dioceses. Given the critical situation and trusting in the role of the Catholic Church as providers of both spiritual but also material help, ACN agreed on the urgent need to provide financial support for the subsistence of some of the most vulnerable Christians through the three Dioceses, our local partners on the ground.
Assistance Project for the provision of rations to needy families of the Archdiocese of Lahore during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Half of the total committed amount will be assigned to Lahore, the largest Diocese. This particular project is addressing the most pressing needs in the Archdiocese of Lahore, with the largest amount of faithful, an estimated 400,000 Catholics. The project planned by the Diocese will reach about 2,000 families identified as the most vulnerable, with two monthly handouts each. The request was to help each one with food packages of EUR 30 on average per month per family for 2 months. Following the suggestion of the President of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Arshad of Islamabad-Rawalpindi we are approving a grant of EUR 75,000 for the Archdiocese of Lahore. Although the amount is lower than that requested (113,988.63), this financial support is very much appreciated and will take the families through the worst of the crisis. In the report each family should sign for the amount that they receive.
Archbishop Shaw told us that he has never seen such poverty. The aim is to enable the 2,000 families he has identified to feed their children and stay alive and so, through the local church network whom we trust and know well, help the most vulnerable survive this critical situation.
Assistance for the provision of rations to needy families of the Islamabad-Rawalpindi Diocese during Covid-19 virus pandemic.
As in the rest of the country, the most vulnerable groups are suffering the most from the effects of the pandemic, not just health wise but also and critically their capacity to earn a living has been devastated as the economy has come to a standstill. Catholics are indeed amongst the most vulnerable and marginalised groups. Estimates count over 200,000 Catholics in Rawalpindi and in Islamabad 190,000.
According to the data collected from 23 parishes of the Islamabad-Rawalpindi Diocese 5,000 families are in need of assistance of which the diocese hopes to reach 3,000 most vulnarable. They are looking to the Church for help during this difficult time. ‘We would like to assist as many families as possible’, says H.E. Archbishop Joseph Arshad who wants to provide each family at least a one time a food package of PKR 5,000. Although this amount will provide a family food for only 8 to 10 days, the project will help the poor families who continuously look forward towards the Church for support to reduce the risk of starvation arising from the current Covid-19 outbreak. The Parish priests and local catechists have identified the beneficiaries amongst the most vulnerable: those who have lost their jobs, widows, day labourers and domestic workers and those with no other income source.
The request is to assist approximately 3,000 families, the most in need, with PKR 5,000 each so the Diocese requests a total of EUR 90,900 to cover the basic food needs of these families during the worst of the crisis. The plan is to distribute the rations in the Parishes, following all the necessary precautionary measures.
Assistance for the provision of rations to needy families of the Faisalabad Diocese during Covid-19 virus pandemic
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Faisalabad created in 1960 is today estimated to have around 200,000 Catholics throughout 28 parishes and 7 districts (Faisalabad, Jhang, Toba Tek Singh, Chiniot, Sahiwal, Pakpattan and Okara), all shepherded by the Most Rev. Bishop Indrias Rehmat. Caritas Pakistan Faisalabad (CPF) is a social wing of the Catholic Church in Faisalabad Diocese since 1965 and currently involved in mitigating the effects of the current crisis amongst the poorest. The Covid-19 virus is rapidly spreading in Faisalabad city with a high number of patients in Punjab provinces. As elsewhere in the country, due to lockdown, all the markets and businesses, are closed resulting in joblessness for day workers and inability to feed their families.
The project would be implemented by Caritas Pakistan Faisalabad. Caritas has planned to support people by allocating personal protection equipment to priests, staff, catechists and volunteers to protect them in this crisis and also to provide food relief packages to the ‘poor and needy ones’. Many people have requested support from their local parishes. After a detailed survey conducted by Caritas volunteers and staff with assistance of Parish priests the families will be identified from the most vulnerable for distribution of the ‘Relief Food Packages’. Daily wagers, widows, orphans, and unemployed persons from Diocese of Faisalabad will be prioritised for help.
The project plans Food Packages amongst 350 families of the Diocese of Faisalabad. Caritas also plans to distribute face masks in churches, raise awareness through radio and other media throughout the community and via parish teams and doctors, they plan to distribute ‘safety allowance and kits’ to 100 catechists and provide financial support for the fees of 200 students from the Covid-19 affected families.