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Winter threatens flood victims in Pakistan

 
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1:00 P.M. EST Nov. 12, 2010

15-year-old Ramzan stands with his tent at the distribution point at Golarchi, Sindh. Photo courtesy of CWS P/A.
15-year-old Ramzan stands with his tent at the distribution point at Golarchi, Sindh. Photo courtesy of CWS P/A.
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Ramzan, a 15-year-old from the Sindh region in Pakistan, is struggling to survive losses that most adults would find difficult to bear.

He lost both parents to illness nearly two years ago. Then, the floods that inundated Pakistan this summer washed away the home where he had cared for his six younger siblings.

Now, the children are living among other families displaced by the floods in a tent provided by Church World Service. But the aid agency is worried about how these families will survive the upcoming winter months.

David Sadoo, an executive with the United Methodist Committee on Relief, agrees that for Pakistan’s displaced, “right now, the biggest concern is winter.” UMCOR is continuing to partner with CWS and other agencies, including Muslim Aid and the Church of Pakistan, to assist flood victims.

The floods – which began in July during Pakistan’s monsoon season – swept through four regions and the Indus River basin, leaving millions homeless, wiping out croplands and farms and destroying livelihoods. Some 14 million people in Pakistan still need assistance with food, shelter, health care and safe drinking water, says the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

But the international response has remained sluggish. A plan for flood-affected communities set up by the United Nations and Pakistan’s government has commitments for only 40 percent of its $1.93 billion funding goal.

The U.N.’s World Food Programme did recently receive a $90 million donation from the United States for Pakistan – $45 million in cash and $45 million worth of “in-kind” food aid. That contribution will provide food assistance to more than seven million people affected by the floods.

People in Pakistan face increased need of food, shelter and medical care following the devastating floods. A web-only photo courtesy of CWS P/A.
People in Pakistan face increased need of food, shelter
and medical care following the devastating floods.
A web-only photo courtesy of CWS P/A.


Food and tents

As of early November, staff from the CWS Pakistan/Afghanistan office had distributed more than 500 tents, along with 2,533 metric tons of food, enough to support 91,200 individuals, and 8,500 non-food items, reaching 75,000 individuals. In the Swat Valley, the agency distributed an additional 1,260 food packages donated by the National Disaster Management Authority.

“The loss remains incomprehensible, especially for those who repeatedly witnessed a series of hardships over the past decade,” CWS said in its Oct. 26 situation report.

Winter weather can restrict access to those in need, so the World Food Programme already is pre-positioning food supplies in northern Pakistan, according to U.N. reports.

The cold also will bring an increase in illnesses, predicted Kelli Siddiqui, director of communication for CWS Pakistan/Afghanistan, which raises a concern about adequate health services.

Even something as simple as warmer clothing is crucial for families who lost all their possessions in the flooding. “The immediate need was to get them food and shelter, but they have limited clothing,” she explained.

Adequate health care

CWS P/A has been operating 10 mobile health units in the flood-affected areas, along with its basic health units in the Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regions. The agency’s health teams continue to provide health education sessions on personal hygiene, HIV and AIDS, skin infections, safe drinking water, sanitation and local endemic diseases. In October, CWS collaborated with the World Health Organization to offer 233 consultations on diarrhea treatment.

Flood survivor Fatama comforts her children near Dubair in northern Pakistan. CWS is assisting some 100,000 flood survivors such as Fatama with food, temporary shelter and medical care. A web-only photo courtesy of CWS P/A.
Flood survivor Fatama comforts her children near Dubair in northern Pakistan. CWS is assisting some 100,000 flood survivors such as Fatama with food, temporary shelter and medical care. A web-only photo courtesy of CWS P/A.
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UMCOR Partner Muslim Aid also established field hospitals and dispatched mobile health units throughout the crisis to provide essential health care and nutritional services for displaced families, including those living in tent villages set up by that organization.

Beyond providing food and shelter during the winter months, long-term needs include repairing infrastructure and helping people support themselves economically.

“In addition to the essential restoration of income-earning opportunities, efforts should also improve the standard of living,” CWS reported. “Emphasis on water and sanitation, health and hygiene as well as education will greatly benefit the affected communities.”

Siddiqui said she hoped that negative news reports about politics in Pakistan would not dissuade United Methodists and other donors from assisting with the humanitarian need there. “What people need to realize is that the people who are affected (by the floods) are just regular families,” she explained. “They are suffering and they could use a helping hand.”

Donations for the work of UMCOR and its partners in Pakistan can be made here.

*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 newsdesk@umcom.org.

Pakistan floods: Inside the CWS response

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