7:00 A.M. EST Aug. 4, 2010
A young boy feels his way through flood waters in Pakistan using a walking stick. Photos courtesy of N. James, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
United Methodists are making plans to assist those displaced by the worst floodwaters to hit Pakistan in 80 years.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is coordinating with four partners — Church World Service, Muslim Aid, Global Medic and the Church of Pakistan — “to support whatever relief efforts they’re doing,” said Melissa Crutchfield, the executive in charge of international disaster response.
The flooding caused by this summer’s monsoon season has affected all four provinces of Pakistan, added Marvin Parvez, the CWS Asia/Pacific Regional Coordinator based in Islamabad, with a profound impact on those already displaced by the conflict between the military and Taliban or the 2005 earthquake.
According to Reuters, the death toll had exceeded 1,400 on Aug. 3.
Parvez was in the Swat Valley on July 28 when the floods came, swamping the CWS office there within 15 minutes. “This is double trouble for them,” he said, referring to the refugees in the valley. “They were already suffering from the war and then the flooding took place.”
In the northern provinces that were severely affected by the earthquake, he added, “again, they’ve lost everything.”
The floods have killed thousands so far and survivors have lost homes, crops and livestock, according to Church World Service. People have little to eat and no way to earn money.
The U.N. Refugee Agency has launched two separate flood responses in the northwest and southwest. Among those affected by the floods, the agency reports: 1.5 million people left homeless in northwestern Pakistan; 1.5 million Afghan refugees living in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan and some 700,000 people displaced by fighting in the Swat Valley and other areas.
Food kit distribution
CWS is focusing on Balochistan, first hit by the floodwaters, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which includes the Swat Valley, and is distributing 1,250 food kits with basic plastic sheeting in both areas. The initial appeal will assist more than 50,000 flood survivors.
“Unfortunately, all of the media attention has gone in the north,” Parvez said. “We will make sure these people who have been forgotten won’t suffer.”
Homes destroyed by the flood in Pakistan stand
in ruins in the Tali village, Balochistan.
Landslides, however, are hampering delivery of relief goods. “Hundreds of bridges were damaged or completely destroyed,” he said. “Hundreds of miles of roads were washed away.”
Health services also will be necessary. “The wells and the canals have been polluted,” Parvez explained. “We are very worried about epidemics breaking out.”
Christians, often marginalized in Pakistan, are among those most at risk during this type of calamity. “Disasters are a poverty issue,” Crutchfield said. “They always hit the most vulnerable populations.”
UMCOR will work with the Church of Pakistan, she said, “to cover that population of underserved and vulnerable people.”
A united Protestant denomination created by the 1970 merger of United Methodist, Anglican, Scottish Presbyterian and Norwegian Lutheran denominations, the church currently is providing shelter for families affected by the flooding in Nowshera and Risalpur.
UMCOR is preparing an initial grant aimed at assisting relief efforts by its partners in Pakistan. Donations can be directed to International Disaster Relief, UMCOR Advance #982450, Pakistan Emergency.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at http://twitter.com/umcscribe.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.