November 2011

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Pakistan: A Nation Under Water

by Dr. Samson Griffin, Chairman Pak Mission Society

In the month of July 2010, intense monsoon rains attributed to La Niña caused “The 2010 Pakistan Floods,” affecting Khyber Paktunkhaw, Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan, the four key Provinces of Pakistan. An area of approximately 800,000 square kilometers along the Indus River Basin in Pakistan was under water.

The Devastation

According to Government figures, the flood directly affected about 20 million people, mostly by destruction of property, livelihood and infrastructure, with a death toll of close to 2000. Over six million people were displaced, and some 1.7 million houses were destroyed. The affected crops included cotton, sugarcane, rice, pulses, tobacco, and animal fodder on about 5.4 million acres of agricultural land. The flood also damaged 10,000 transmission lines and transformer feeders, and powerhouses in different flood-hit areas, with a power shortfall of 3.135 gig watts. The flood also damaged an estimated 3,916 km of highways and 5,646 km of railways. Repairs are expected to cost at least 158 million US dollars and 131 million US dollars, respectively. Public building damage is estimated at 1 billion US dollars. Aid donors estimate that 5000 schools were destroyed. By mid–September the floods generally had began to recede, but the majority of the displaced persons were not able to return home.

Relief efforts

By the end of July 2010, Pakistan had appealed to international donors for help in responding to the disaster. The Pakistani Army deployed troops to all the affected areas and rescued thousands of people. The United Nations, the USA and other countries including Muslim countries, organizations, and individuals pledged to assist in Pakistan’s flood emergency.

Christian Relief efforts

The Pak Mission Society (PMS) is a non-government, non-profit, para-church organization formed by the Christian nationals to share God’s love with the unreached people groups of Pakistan. In the last five years, it has also helped in the medical field by opening mother and child health care centers in the remote areas of Khyber Paktunkhaw. It is also one of the national organizations that provided relief to the victims of the October 2005 earthquake in the northern part of the country.
PMS’s responses to the recent severe flood have included:

  • Mobilization and deployment of Medical Response Teams
  • Establishment of clean water sources for the local populace
  • Providing food and non-food items to the communities

Following the disaster, PMS immediately mobilized its resources to carry out a rapid assessment of a district situated on the River Swat. This district had been utterly ruined by floodwaters that washed away entire villages. PMS distributed food, non-food items, shelter, water, and medical assistance to the 3000 vulnerable families in this area. At the present time, PMS is in the process of constructing 300 houses for the affected community. In achieving this endeavor, Pak Mission Society has partnered with nine other organizations.

The Lord has used these disasters to open up communities in Pakistan to the gospel. Previously it was too dangerous to try to present the gospel in these areas. But, after these terrible natural disasters, people started to accept Christ’s followers who came to help them. Disaster assistance by caring believers helped to open the minds of the local people to Jesus and His people.

Aftermath of Government relief

The government’s assistance performance in recovering flood losses, reconstructing damaged infrastructure, and resettling displaced populations has been dismally slow due to the country’s overall economy. The crisis caused by floods may continue to affect the hard hit areas for many more years. Some rightly blame the government for inaction, as thousands of families still remain camped out in makeshift tents, clamoring for relief that they say has failed to arrive since the disaster occurred.

Villagers returning from relief camps have found their homes destroyed and crops washed away. “Please rebuild our homes. We don’t have anything,” says an old woman sitting under a thatched roof-house, which does not provide sufficient shelter for more than three persons, but is occupied by a family of eight.
Critical infrastructure including health clinics, power stations, roads, bridges and water supply systems were destroyed and have still not been completely repaired. The education infrastructure has been badly disrupted with the result that many children returning to schools are over-crowded in classrooms.

A Bumpy Road to Recovery

Despite promises of foreign aid, the flow of funds has been slow. Many folk have attributed this to the failure of the government to show the destruction and urgency of the problem to the international donors. A visit to devastated villages confirms the plight of millions waiting for the promised support.

Flood affectees all over Pakistan narrate inspiring stories. Courageous villagers refuse to surrender to the wrath of nature. They saw their villages vanish, yet their spirits are high, and they are ready to fight back. They are ready to rebuild their houses and villages once again.

It is very hard. We have lost everything we ever owned; our homes, donkeys, cows, and crops. But we are happy to be home on our land,

says Mohammed Omar, one of the 400 villagers returning to KPK.

A similar story is told by Saleemullah Adeel, who abandoned his home in August 2010. The road to recovery has so far been rough for him, but he hopes to have a good crop this year because weather conditions so far have been good. Near his house, which is now partially repaired, there are neat rows of vegetables, and a few hens feed in the yard. But he has little else to be happy about.

I bought wheat seed and fertilizer after selling jewelry we had purchased for my elder daughter’s wedding, which was postponed. I have used all my savings, and my two sons who worked on fish farms have now lost their jobs.

Saleemullah’s problems do not end there. Since he did not own the land he farmed, he was not awarded compensation by the provincial government, which gave landowners seed and fertilizer.

Agriculture in Sindh Province has still not been revived, especially in those districts on the Indus River’s right bank region known for their paddy crops. During the floods, rice growers not only lost their paddy crop, but also the quality local seed which they had stored for the next season.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the rehabilitation of farmers and the revival of agriculture in the post-flood phase are likely to be a slow process for want of enough funds from the cash strapped provincial government. Flash floods not only destroyed standing crops and orchards, but also made land uncultivable due to the accumulation of mud and water. Soil erosion has led to legal fights over ownership of the farmland, holding up cultivation till the settlement of disputes. With the main irrigation infrastructure destroyed, the canals remained closed for repair. There will be a scarcity of water for the next crop.

The government has started outsourcing project management and allowed international agencies to directly implement rehabilitation schemes in the name of ensuring transparent use of funds. A timely and appropriate response from the government and international agencies could not only contain and mitigate risk to the economy, but also turn it into an opportunity for economic revival.

In Summary

Natural disasters are a regular phenomenon and difficult to control. However, with human efforts and ingenuity, the effects can be mitigated. This lesson has been learned by many countries that are now well-prepared for such disasters. The recent Tsunami in Japan showed the strength of a society that refused to bow down to the natural disaster that hit them. The system provided them timely support, rescue and relief.

Likewise, people in Pakistan know the art of survival. Being used to false promises, broken commitments and oppression, they will continue to live despite all odds.

Crisis situations do evoke exceptional responses, and “the 2010 flood in Pakistan” has provided an excellent occasion for the global world, not only to formulate and execute post-flood relief rehabilitation plans in Pakistan, but to rebuild agriculture and villages on new and sustainable bases. They also show the Pakistanis that the world cares for them in their suffering.

Pray for an abundance of medical workers who love Jesus to help in these efforts.

From the Editor

by Keith Carey

Dear Praying Friends,
It is exciting and educational to be the managing editor of the GPD I get to learn about so many faraway places and interact with such interesting and adventuresome people. For example, one volunteer writer sent us her monthly story from the Himalayan Mountains where she was traveling. An assistant editor helped us while she was stuck in Europe when all the airlines were grounded last year due to the volcanic eruptions in Iceland. Yes, we have a very dedicated, world-conscience volunteer staff!
On a less light note, we will be praying for Pakistan this month, a relatively new nation that has faced many challenges and tragedies since it gained independence in 1947 from Great Britain. One of their greatest recent tragedies has been the devastating flood that covered a good percentage of the country with water last year. The flood was so severe that over a year later a good percentage of Pakistan’s 185 million people are still suffering from it. That is why we are praying for them this month.
We are also praying for Pakistan because they have a high number of unreached people groups. The Joshua Project (Joshuaproject.net/) has identified 463 of them. If we had enough information and space in our prayer digest, we could have a prayer entry for a different people group in Pakistan for every day during the year!
In Christ,
Keith Carey,
Managing editor, GPD