Presbyterian mission workers in Pakistan and the institutions they serve are also providing services to help with the relief effort.
The worst flooding in Pakistan’s history has left about 1.5 million homeless and has caused the deaths of more than 1,600 people. The United Nations estimates that more than 17 million Pakistanis have been directly affected by the summer monsoon-generated flooding, which began in the northern part of Pakistan and has now spread to four provinces covering nearly one-quarter of the country.
The disaster has been described as affecting more people than the Haiti earthquake and the Asian Tsunami of 2004 combined. The extent of the damage is severe: entire villages have been demolished, huge numbers of roads and bridges have washed away, fields and crops have been destroyed and more livestock have been killed than people.
Of particular concern, say health officials, is the risk of waterborne diseases, a serious threat exacerbated by the fact that many stranded communities cannot access healthcare and there is little safe drinking water.
Working through the Geneva-based Act Alliance International and New York-based Church World Service, PDA has provided shelter items and food packages for about 200,000 people. Specifically:
• Food parcels and basic non-food such as mosquito nets and water cans to 12,000 families. Food packages are being distributed directly to affected families at convenient food distribution points established in each community and consist of 44 lbs. each of wheat flour and rice, 4 lbs. each of beans and sugar, 10 cups of cooking oil, 7 oz. of tea, and a box of iodized salt;
• Winterized tents and plastic sheets to 3,500 families;
• Hygiene kits to 8,000 families;
• Preventative and curative medical care to 54,000 people through mobile health clinics, including patient examinations, providing essential drugs and pre-natal care; and
• An assessment of the particular nutrition needs and status of children under 5 years of age in beneficiary families to determine if supplemental food resources are required in later weeks.
The PDA assistance comes from the One Great Hour of Sharing offering and individual donations. To contribute to Pakistan flood relief, visit PDA’s designated account. Individuals may also give by mail through their local Presbyterian congregation by sending their check to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700. Include the special designated giving account DR000038 – Pakistan.
Congregations should send donations through their normal mission-giving channels.
David Sohail, PC(USA) mission worker and director of Memorial Christian Hospital in Sialkot, says all hospital employees have donated one day’s salary to flood relief efforts.
The hospital, which is not in the flood zone, has sent much of its stock of medicines to treat diarrhea, dysentery, skin diseases, respiratory infections, and fevers including malaria to the stricken region, as well as clothing and boiled water.
Sohail, who is also executive director of the Christian Hospitals Association of Pakistan, has enlisted the help of at least eight of the association’s member hospitals to provide doctors and other health workers. The supplies and workers are being transported to the flood zone by Pakistan Army helicopters.
“I appeal to all Presbyterians and their churches to pray for our country,” Sohail urged in an e-mail to David Hudson, the PC(USA)’s area coordinator for Asia/Pacific, “and for flood victims and all those who are helping them including the Armed Forces of Pakistan, the NGOs, and Memorial Christian Hospital-Sialkot.
Maqsood Kamil, executive secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan (PCP) says the church is “deliberately choosing to provide help to the weakest and the most neglected minorities” in the country, “as it is quite clear and being discussed even in the media that minorities are being deliberately neglected by the government, politicians, and Muslim religious relief agencies.
Kamil said the PCP relief team drove 13 hours from church offices in Gujranwala to the border between Punjab and Sindh provinces, an area populated by low-caste Hindu tribal people.
“They have taken refuge in the open desert, where they live under the scorching heat in the day and are soaked when the rains come,” Kamil said. “Already extremely poor, they have lost everything. Water in those areas has reached to 6-8 feet high. They have no food, water, tents, clothing, bedding, medicines, and other necessities of life. … None of the government or other relief agencies have reached those people.”
The PCP distributed kits containing toothbrushes and toothpaste, biscuits, chickpeas, rice, wheat flour, sugar, tea leaves, spices, soaps, washing powder, and cooking oil to 200 families of 10-14 people per family.
“The items we distributed will last for 10 days and then we plan to go back with more,” Kamil said.
Another PCP team is preparing to take food and medical supplies to the Khyber Pakhtoon Khwah area near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border very soon, Kamil added. “There, in different areas, 1,120 Christians and 220 Hindu families are living in very, very difficult conditions,” he said. “In our next trip in a week we will also take a medical team with us, as so many people are sick among the flood-affected people and the diseases are spreading quickly.”
Presbyterian congregations in Pakistan are taking weekly offerings during worship to help fund the PCP’s relief work.
PDA continues to urge U.S. Presbyterians to give money to the relief effort, to stay informed and share information about the disaster and PC(USA) relief efforts, and to pray for flood victims, their families and the relief workers who are trying to help them.