|Agencies respond to crisis in Pakistan|
Desperate for bedding, people struggle over mattresses at a camp for
internally displaced people in northern Pakistan. UMNS photos courtesy
By Linda Bloom*
May 20, 2009 | NEW YORK (UMNS)
Marvin Parvez is afraid that what has become one of the largest
displacements of people in Pakistani history could grow into an even
Parvez, director of the Pakistan/Afghanistan Program of Church World
Service, warns of a worsening humanitarian crisis. A UMNS photo by
Chris Herlinger, CWS.
Parvez, a Methodist from Pakistan who is the director of the
Pakistan-Afghanistan Program of Church World Service, believes the
number of displaced persons from the Swat Valley in the Northwest
Frontier Province could double if the fighting between the Taliban and
Pakistani military spreads into new districts.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 1.5
million people have been displaced in northwest Pakistan recently, in
addition to 500,000 who had fled the area since 2008.
Visiting Church World Service headquarters in New York, Parvez
appealed for support as the agency tries to assist 1,000 of the
displaced families. “Our concern continues to be the welfare of people,
their security and the whole displacement crisis,” he told United
Methodist News Service in a May 20 interview.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief has allocated $110,000
to Church World Service and Muslim Aid, another partner in the region,
for their work with the displaced. The relief agency also is in contact
with the Church of Pakistan about needs for assistance. Muslim Aid is
working in a different area than Church World Service, according to
UMCOR, and is assisting displaced people by providing tents, mattresses
and other necessities.
On average, about 100,000 people have been registered daily at 89
registration points established in Mardan, Swabi, Nowshera, Peshawar,
Kohat and Charsaddda districts of the province, according to Ron
Redmond, a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesperson.
Food and shelter
Church World Service already has teams in Mardan, Swabi and
Mansehra, Parvez reported. In addition to the families currently being
helped with food and shelter, “as our support grows from partner
churches and denominations … we hope to extend services like health
care, water and sanitation.”
Church World Service is working with the Sungi Development Foundation
and Civil Society Human and Institutional Development Program in
distributing 300 food packages suitable for a family of five and 230
shelter kits. Through funding of its appeal, the agency will buy more
family-sized tents and monthly food packages of lentils, oil, water,
tea, sugar, rice and flour, as well as provide health and hygiene
An elderly man sits inside a tent at a camp for internally displaced people in northern Pakistan.
Many of the displaced have few possessions. Church World Service
staff reported that in the Swabi displacement camp, "at least 250
children were barefoot and had walked with their parents the long
distances. Children approached the team requesting shoes." The team
also witnessed a desperate need for safe drinking water, particularly
due to the extreme heat.
Another issue hampering assistance is that only about a third of
the internally displaced persons are in camps. The remainder are
staying with relatives or host families. “Their plight is really not
very visible,” Parvez explained. “We are trying to reach out to them.”
Parvez, who expects to visit the region on June 2, expressed
concern about both the short- and long-term living conditions of the
displaced civilians. The camps often have poor water and sanitation
facilities, increasing the chances of a cholera epidemic, and the
region itself is rugged. “This is very difficult terrain, this is
mountainous area,” he said. “The harsh winters are unbearable.”
Living as a displaced person is particularly hard for vulnerable
populations. “The women, to begin with, are marginalized in our
society,” he pointed out. “In a crisis or disaster, they are further
May 19, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced a $110
million aid package for displaced persons in Pakistan, most of which
will be channeled through the Agency for International Development, or
USAID. Clinton also took the unusual step of asking Americans to make
$5 pledges to Swat Valley civilians by sending a text on their
Church World Service tents and blankets are helping to shelter displaced Pakistanis.
Parvez, who already had been contacted by several individual
United Methodist congregations, is hoping the denomination will respond
to the humanitarian crisis in Pakistan, as well as suffering in other
parts of South Asia. “Even in these very difficult global economic
times, I think people are digging deeper into their pockets,” he said.
United Methodists donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to
assist survivors of Pakistan’s 2005 earthquake, working through a
number of agencies, including Church World Service, International Blue
Crescent and the Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action.
The United Methodist relief agency is seeking donations for the
initial efforts in what will be a long-term relief and recovery effort
in Pakistan. Checks can be marked for “UMCOR Advance #982450, Pakistan”
and placed in church offering plates or sent to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068,
New York, N.Y. 10087-9068. Credit card donations can be made by phone
at (800) 554-8583 or online at http://secure.gbgm-umc.org/donations/advance/index.cfm.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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