Humanitarian aid distributed as education and other ongoing supports continue
The Salesian community of Quetta, Pakistan, provided shelter and basic necessities to Afghan refugees with the support of the Salesian Missions Office in Madrid. More than 100 refugees, mostly children, received tents, blankets, food and medicine. The Christian community of Quetta felt proud to be able to help people of other religions in a spirit of brotherhood.
This initiative was launched due to the extremely cold weather in the region. The Salesians also work to provide continuous support, including the education of children and medical and psychological assistance.
During the second week of December, Don Bosco Lahore distributed humanitarian aid to 200 Afghan refugee families in Peshwar. This activity was carried out with the collaboration and coordination of local authorities, police and municipal administration, which facilitated the distribution. This effort was supported by the Salesian Missions Office in Madrid, the Salesian Missions in the United States, Don Bosco Switzerland and the Salesians in Berlin.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), nearly 700,000 Afghans have been internally displaced by the conflict this year, with some 3.5 million people uprooted in total across the country. Iran and Pakistan together host nearly 90 percent of all Afghan refugees in the world and have done so for more than four decades.
The Salesian centers in Quetta and Lahore offer quality education and an innovative teaching style. More than 1,000 pupils from disadvantaged families attend Salesian schools. The Salesians began providing education in Pakistan in 1998, and today their centers are considered to be one of the best in the country.
“We try to provide quality and innovative education,” said Father Gabriel Cruz, Salesian missionary from Mexico who has worked in Lahore for three years. “The Pakistani education system focuses on memorization and reproduction as we try to awaken the skills of the students.”
Salesian schools offer economic benefits, scholarships and accommodation to students from the poorest families so that education is not only accessible but also an incentive for parents to send their children to school. Pakistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in South Asia at less than 50 percent. Although the country’s constitution recognizes free and compulsory education between the ages of 5 and 16, the rule is often not followed in rural areas for those over 13.
According to the World Bank, 31.3% of people living in Pakistan live below the poverty line. Gender plays a role in poverty in the country. Pakistan has traditional gender roles that define a woman’s place in the home, not in the workplace. As a result, access to education is difficult for girls and society’s investments are lower. There are few opportunities for women and girls in the country outside of traditional roles. This is evidenced by the disparities in education, including the literacy rate.