Pakistan: Providing assistance to 100,000 people

How much more can Pakistan take? That is one of the questions farmer Sawan Khan and other disaster survivors are asking in the wake of the worst flooding in Pakistan's history - a disaster that has prompted a large-scale response of food, shelter materials and medical assistance from Church World Service.

Father takes son to mobile clinic
Flood survivor Kamal Khan carried his son Zeeshan to a CWS mobile health unit in Balakot, Pakistan. Photo: Ghulam Rasool/CWS

See also video Pakistan floods: Inside the CWS response

By Chris Herlinger/CWS

How much more can Pakistan take? That is one of the questions farmer Sawan Khan and other disaster survivors are asking in the wake of flooding many are calling the worst in Pakistan's history – floods that have prompted a large-scale response by Church World Service.

As Khan, of Sultan Kot, Pakistan, told a CWS staffer, all that he knew as secure in his life – his wheat and cotton crops, for example – has been washed away. "My house has collapsed," he said, "and everything I ever owned has been taken by the flood."

Khan had worked in Sultan Kot’s primary school for boys: "I was enjoying the summer vacations with my three sons and four daughters until ten days ago.” He had worked at the school to supplement his farming income. Now he finds himself as a beneficiary of both food and non-food items through the relief work of CWS and one of its local partners.

As the flooding enters its nearly second month, having displaced some 20 million, CWS is finding that assisting Khan and tens of thousands of others affected by the disaster is not easy.

First, there is the sheer scale of the disaster: The floods which began in the northern parts of country have spread to four provinces covering more than 82,000 square miles, about a quarter of Pakistan's total land mass.

That, Pakistan-based CWS staff noted in an Aug. 12 report, means that "thousands of individuals remain stranded and areas inaccessible. Food shortages plague the country while waterborne diseases are increasing rapidly in areas where people do not have access to safe drinking water and are drinking contaminated water."

CWS staff add: "The devastation described by media and other sources may not compare to the devastation that will surface as the government and humanitarian aid workers reach the isolated, flood-affected regions. Even the length of time it will take to reach all affected regions is unknown."

Waters continue to move downstream like a “rolling earthquake” affecting Punjab and Sindh provinces further south from the floods' northern origins. These continued rains and flooding, CWS staff report, are creating difficulties in rescue and relief operations. Moreover, bridges throughout the country are being washed away from flooding and landslides. Poor weather has also grounded relief helicopters.

Despite these problems, CWS has remained committed to a response in a wide geographic area, which includes working in the Swat, Kohistan, D.I. Khan, Shangla and Mansehra districts of Khyber Pakhtunkwa Province; the Sibbi district of Balochistan Province; and the Khairpur district of Sindh Province.

The cornerstone of the response is to provide direct assistance to nearly 100,000 individuals, or about 13,500 households; this includes food and non-food items, shelter kits and health care.

Distribution of food has been a key part of the response: By early August, CWS had already distributed some 70 tons of food items in Balochistan and Khyber Pakthunkhwa.

As part of its commitment to food security in Pakistan, CWS is focusing on particularly vulnerable populations like children, elderly and households headed by women.

And in all they are doing, CWS Pakistan/Afghanistan staff are doing their best to ensure strict measures for transparency and quality and accountability standards through CWS's Strengthening Humanitarian Assistance Program. This includes ten introductory workshops for Pakistan-based humanitarian organizations on Sphere Standards and Humanitarian Accountability Partnership accountability targets.

All of this is being done as part of a decades-long commitment CWS has made to Pakistan – a commitment that continues in recent times through devastating earthquakes (2005 and 2008); previous flooding (2006 and 2007); massive displacement caused by political conflict (2009); and one constant – drought and water shortages which are affecting Pakistan's ability to feed itself.

There has not been a single year since 2005 when Pakistan was not in some way affected by some kind of disaster. This is obviously testing the resilience of Pakistanis, who are facing a seeming cycle of never-ending disasters.

Mehr Nisar, a 50-year-old widow from Punda Balla Village, told CWS staffer Dennis Joseph: “I lost my husband in the earthquake, and I was living in a [pre-fabricated] shelter with my son after that. This has now been destroyed, as half of the land under the shelter was washed away.”

Marvin Parvez, Pakistan-based CWS Asia/Pacific regional director, said the experiences of Nisar and others reflects a sobering reality.

"This is an extremely large and difficult emergency in a region where we already have a complex conflict going on," Parvez said. "If agencies like CWS and the international community don't respond swiftly, people like Nisar and millions of other survivors will be pushed into chronic poverty and hopelessness forever."

How to help

Contributions to support the emergency needs in Pakistan may be made online or by phone (800.297.1516), or may be sent to your denomination or to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515, Attention: Pakistan floods. 

ACT Alliance  Church World Service is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.


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