UMCOR Reaches Out to Partners in Pakistan
By Linda Unger
August 3, 2010—The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is reaching out to its network of partners in Pakistan to respond to the most severe flooding ever to affect that country.
For more than a week, heavier than usual monsoon rains have drenched the country and provoked flash floods that have taken the lives of at least 1,200 Pakistanis. The rains, which are expected to continue this week, have chased millions from their homes and left thousands stranded and awaiting rescue.
“We are praying for the people who have lost loved ones, are left without homes and livelihoods, and for those who are trapped and waiting for food and clean water,” said the Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, UMCOR’s top executive. “UMCOR is committed to addressing their needs and especially reaching out to those who are most vulnerable.”
Government buildings, businesses, thousands of acres of crops, and nearly 30,000 homes so far have been completely destroyed by the floods that followed on the heels of extremely heavy monsoon rains in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Punjab, AJK, and Sindh.
Floodwaters washed away roads and destroyed bridges, made communication and rescue difficult, and provoked fears that their destructive reach may be extended through waterborne illnesses like cholera.
All of the major cities of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province have become inaccessible by land, as bridges and roads have been washed away by floodwaters, wrote Ashar Dean, a relief and development executive with the Church of Pakistan, an UMCOR partner. “Many people have lost their lives; livestock have been taken away by the gushing water,” he reported.
The Church of Pakistan, a united Protestant denomination created by the 1970 merger of United Methodist, Anglican, Scottish Presbyterian, and Norwegian Lutheran denominations, is providing shelter for families affected by the flooding in Nowshera and Risalpur.
“The strength of our partnerships allows assessments to be made and aid to begin without waiting for UMCOR personnel to arrive at a crisis location,” said Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), of which UMCOR is a part.
“To the degree that we support our partners and their efforts in the midst of natural or human-made disasters, we help them to strengthen their own civil society and its ability to cope with disaster,” he added.
Just days before the monsoons crashed into Pakistan, Kemper met with Bishop Samuel Azariah of the Church of Pakistan at GBGM’s New York City headquarters. The aim of the meeting was to underscore the relationship of solidarity between both entities.
“The situation of the people of Pakistan is so close to me now because of that encounter,” Kemper said.
UMCOR is also ready to support efforts by Church World Service and Muslim Aid, partner organizations that also are on the ground in Pakistan and already responding to the crisis.
About 96 percent of Pakistan’s population embraces Islam, and only about 3 percent embraces Christianity. “We want to bring relief and compassion to everyone, whatever their faith or religious beliefs,” Kemper said.
UMCOR is preparing an initial grant aimed at assisting relief efforts by its partners in Pakistan. Your gift to International Disaster Relief, UMCOR Advance #982450, supports those efforts. Please be sure to note Pakistan Emergency in the subject line.