Rain of Compassion
By Linda Unger*
August 23, 2010—With new floods compounding the effects of weeks of inundation across Pakistan, the people of this nation in crisis are in desperate need of a different kind of deluge: the rain of compassion.
Mohammad Umar could not salvage even a blanket for his children as he and his family fled the rising floodwaters in the village of Sultan Kot. They escaped with just the clothes on their backs, he told an aid worker with the Nations Capacity Building Program, a partner of Church World Service (CWS) and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
Lost to Umar are his collapsed home, his tools and cooking utensils, and his 10 acres of cotton crop which would have paid for the education of his eight children. The crop was washed away, and his tools and utensils are buried beneath the mud left by the raging floodwaters.
Umar and his family are among the estimated 8 million Pakistanis in need of immediate emergency aid, including food, clean water, and shelter. And they are among the more than 20 million Pakistanis affected by the flooding that has torn through the country’s four provinces.
Since about July 22, heavier than normal monsoon rains caused the Indus River and its tributaries to overflow their banks. The Sibi District in the province of Balochistan, where Sultan Kot is located, saw at least one village completely under water and many others flooded.
While the number of deaths so far is relatively low for so extensive a disaster, the United Nations estimates that the number of people affected by the crisis is comparable to the combined toll of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan Kashmir.
“Disasters cannot be measured by the number of dead,” said a CWS communication last week. “Effective humanitarian response must be measured against the number of those affected who are struggling to survive, particularly as initial cholera cases and starvation deaths are reported.”
The Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, UMCOR head, underscored the urgency of supporting the survivors. “This crisis is of major proportions,” she said. “Survivors need food, clean water, medical care, and shelter now, as they seek to stave off waterborne and infectious diseases.”
According to news reports, more than 38,000 cases of acute diarrhea have been reported, along with the first confirmed death from cholera.
“UMCOR is counting on the generosity of United Methodists—who have brought so much hope and healing this year to the people of Haiti, Chile, and elsewhere—to help us respond to the vast need in Pakistan,” Harvey said.
UMCOR is working with Partners CWS, Muslim Aid, and GlobalMedic to provide clean water, food assistance, emergency shelter and medical aid to some of the most severely impacted communities.
GlobalMedic is bringing clean water to 80,000 underserved Pakistanis each day through the deployment of water purification units and the distribution of Aquatab purification tablets. This week, it will begin distribution of 500,000 purification tablets in the hard-hit Swat Valley.
The group has also provided a fully equipped and staffed inflatable field hospital in the Punjab region and is seeing 900 outpatients a day.
CWS, meanwhile, is bringing food packages, nonfood items, and preventive and curative health services in support of some 100,000 affected people in the Swat and Mansehra areas. Muslim Aid is reaching another 35,000 beneficiaries with food, health, and clean water, sanitation, and hygiene aid.
Among the estimated 4 million people left homeless by the floods are Bashir Ahmed and his family, also from Sultan Kot in Balochistan. Already struggling to make ends meet before the floods hit, Ahmed at least was able to feed his family and send his eldest children to school.
A day-laborer, he had decided to stay home the day the crisis hit his village. Because of that decision, he managed to get his entire family—elderly parents, two young brothers, wife, and four children—to safety. But he lost everything else.
Ahmed and other survivors expressed gratitude for the assistance they have received, but much more aid is needed for the millions of people affected by the disaster.
Please give generously to International Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #982450 and help the people of Pakistan survive the worst disaster in memory in their country. Please indicate Pakistan Floods on the memo line of your check.
*Linda Unger is the staff writer for UMCOR.