When disaster strikes, CWS responds

Church World Service is currently responding to a number of emergencies in the U.S. and worldwide.

By Chris Herlinger/CWS

Two boys on a bike in a flood
Boys on a bicycle try to navigate a main road in Sandan district, after severe flooding in Cambodia.
Photo: CWS

Church World Service is currently responding to a number of emergencies in the U.S. and worldwide.

Domestically, 17 Georgia counties experienced catastrophic flooding in September and were declared federal disaster areas, with damages estimated at $250 million.

Focusing on long-term recovery needs in four Georgia counties where needs are greatest, Church World Service is involved in helping affected families to rebuild their lives. CWS Emergency Response Specialist Joann Hale is coordinating the agency’s response, working with members of the state’s marginalized Latino community.  Meanwhile, fellow ERS Lura Cayton is coordinating training to recovery groups just forming--an increasingly important role for CWS in domestic disasters.

Last week in Atlanta, 52 local recovery facilitators participated in a daylong training focusing on several areas of long-term recovery.  Coordinated by CWS, trainers for the event also came from the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Lutheran Disaster Response, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Coordinated Assistance Network and FEMA.
"As always, the training gives us an opportunity to model on the national level the cooperation and collaboration we're encouraging at the local level, and it provides resources that are available to long-term recovery groups that are just getting started," Cayton said.

These roles complement another part of the CWS response: providing material resource shipments to the recovering communities. In the days following the flooding, CWS provided 1,860 CWS Hygiene Kits, 500 CWS Emergency Clean-up Buckets, 200 CWS Emergency Blankets, 2,010 CWS School Kits, 4,600 pairs of protective latex gloves and 1,500 protective masks.

Looking beyond the U.S. borders, Church World Service continues its emergency response efforts in Pakistan, where ongoing military offensives and skirmishes continue to displace tens of thousands.

Following new ground offensives in the South Waziristan region in October, local staff and partners reported that many displaced persons will only be able to sustain themselves for a short time with the very limited provisions they have been able to take with them. Aside from concern over food, and with the winter season setting in, shelter and heating are also becoming an increasing concern.

"One thing that remains undisputed is the heart-wrenching difficulties and problems faced by the new influx of displaced persons, who stand to face further challenges until Waziristan is cleared of militant elements," said a CWS Pakistan/Afghanistan staffer.

While taking all due security precautions, CWS continues to provide assistance to displaced families and individuals.  And, it is working to strengthen and support local partners in their efforts to deliver assistance to the newly displaced.  Notably, local partner organization Sarhad has expertise in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector and has extensive experience working in the tribal and conflict-affected areas.

CWS plans to address the emergency food needs of 675 families living with host families in Dera Ismail Khan.  Food packages include wheat flour, beans, cooking oil, sugar, tea, iodized salt and milk powder.  Women-headed households, widows, children, elderly and disabled people, and those with special needs receive top priority.   

Also, depending on funding, CWS hopes to provide 5,000 families with household items including hygiene kits and blankets. And, CWS hopes to provide safe drinking water to 8,800 displaced persons through 80 communal hand pumps, along with sanitation support through 440 latrines, 80 bathing places and 80 washing points. Health and hygiene education focusing on the importance of disease prevention is also planned for mothers, school children and other community members.

This response is in addition to current relief activities that CWS and partners are providing for people displaced from the Swat Valley in Abbottabad, Haripur, Mardan, Swabi and Buner.

Meanwhile, CWS continues its efforts to assist those affected by flooding from Typhoon Ketsana in Cambodia and Vietnam.

In Cambodia, efforts are focused on Kompong Thom Province, where CWS already works, and where some 10,600 families in 254 villages were affected by the deluge of rain and resulting floods.

Through early 2010, CWS is assisting 3,841 families (19,435 people) in 41 villages in Kompong Thom with food, mosquito nets, water containers and purification materials, medicines, and other non-food relief items.  In longer-term recovery efforts, CWS is promoting food security and livelihood development, including disaster management trainings to help mitigate future disasters.

In Vietnam, where flooding was also heavy, CWS and its partners are focusing efforts on the central province of Thua Thien Hue, assisting up to 5,000 households in 10 villages in upgrading shelters, providing seeds for planting to help improve food security, constructing wells, providing education on health and sanitation, and teaching emergency preparedness and climate change adaptation strategies.

How to help

Contributions to support Church World Service emergency response and recovery efforts may be made online, by phone (800-297-1516), or sent to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.


All active news articles