Building the Road to Recovery in Pakistan

“I saw one patient, an old man, being carried on a stretcher,” says a Catholic Relief Services staffer in mountainous northern Pakistan. “He told me they hiked 5 to 6 hours over steep terrain, carrying him.”

The normal roads that people would have taken were cut off by the massive flooding that struck Pakistan in summer 2010, along with the landslides that followed. For CRS staff watching exhausted villagers trek for hours to clinics or food markets, it was a spur to action: “We need to provide access to the main road.”

Catholic Relief Services teams quickly assessed the most important paths, bridges, and roads that needed repair. By paying local men to do the work, CRS also helped families who had lost their crops or shops to the flooding and have no other source of income.

Cash for work programs in Pakistan

Cash for work programs are helping rebuild the damaged infrastructure in Pakistan. Photo by Asad Zaidi for CRS

“We couldn’t find this road before,” says one man, gesturing to the ground at his feet. The flood washed it away, leaving only uprooted trees, rocks, and silt. “With the road out, we have no access to our fields or the market,” he continues. “When our wives got ill we couldn’t take them to the doctor.”

Now, his group of village men are gathering sand and stones to fill and level the road. CRS provides cement and pipe to create culverts; the men work eight hours a day in small teams.

In the Dubair Valley near the town of Besham, a key road was washed away. “The people in the area were just locked in the valley and had no access to outside world,” says a CRS Besham staffer.

Villagers approached CRS, which provided the raw materials. The men then did the construction work themselves. “Now we have easy access to the Besham market and can get food from the bazaar,” says one villager. “People pray for CRS and its staff when they take this pathway.”

Because of CRS’ cash for work program, villagers have already repaired four water systems. “Fifteen other projects have been completed as well,” says Jack Byrne, Country Representative for CRS Pakistan. “Community members have fixed roads, cleared the mud from irrigation channels, and built retaining walls or small bridges.”

With support from CRS and from Caritas donors across the globe, thousands of families are benefiting from the roadwork and other projects. Most importantly, their breadwinners have an income during a difficult time.

“We’re grateful we can build the road,” says one man who saw cornfields and wheat swept away. “Most of our crops were lost. If not for this, we wouldn’t have wages.”

Laura Sheahen is CRS’ regional information officer for Asia.

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One Response to “Building the Road to Recovery in Pakistan”

  1. Giving flood-affected farmers control over their recovery: the CRS response in Pakistan : Program Quality Says:

    [...] CRS is paying men to repair or rebuild washed-out bridges, roads, and more. [...]

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