Aid group laments response to Pakistan’s floods

Published August 23, 2010

Women and children displaced by heavy flooding take refuge in Sultan Colony camp, near the city of Multan. Photo: Evan Schneider/UN Photo

Bangalore, India
Church-backed aid groups are calling for people around the world to step up to the plate and help those suffering the worst floods in the history of Pakistan, with one agency describing the international response as, "far from adequate.”

"The majority of them [those affected by the floods] still remain without food, drinking water, shelter and medication, [and] more damage is expected in Sindh Province as the second wave of floods is approaching," cautioned U.S.-based Church World Service on Aug. 16.

At the same time the Geneva-based Lutheran World Federation announced on Aug. 19 that two of its disaster relief specialists have been sent to Pakistan to assist the church-based ACT Alliance in providing emergency assistance to the victims of the flooding.

It said that Bed Bahadur Thapa and Netra Prasad Subedi, currently working with the LWF Department for World Service programme in Nepal, would arrive in Pakistan soon to help in the provision of clean water, food and emergency shelter, said Colette Bouka-Coula, the acting director of the LWF department.

The warning or more floods came a day after United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon described the flood fury in Pakistan as, "heart wrenching.”

"I will never forget the destruction and suffering I have witnessed today. In the past, I have witnessed many natural disasters around the world but nothing like this," Ban told journalists in Islamabad on Aug.15  after he had visited the flood-hit areas with Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari.

The previous day, Zardari had told his nation, during an Independence Day address, that the floods had affected more than 20 million people.

In an interview with ENInews, Allan A. Calma, deputy director for disaster management in Pakistan for CWS, which is part of the ACT Alliance, said from Islamabad, "On the one hand, this is a continuing and growing calamity. On the other, the resources are draining out."

With the floods now affecting the entire nation, Calma noted that the international response "has not been adequate".

The U.N. has said that while it has launched a US$459 million appeal for emergency flood aid to Pakistan, the response has not yet reached the halfway mark.

Allan said that CWS has already distributed emergency food and shelter material to 16 000 families, and provided medical assistance to more than 100 000 people in seven districts of three provinces: Khyber Pakhtunkwa, Balochistan and Sindh.

Still, the CWS official added, "Even the people whom we reached out to first are now struggling with a second flood, and are back to square one. Our reserves are drying up."

The floods in Pakistan began at the end of July, when incessant monsoon rains in the mountainous north of the country wrecked havoc in the hilly region first before the floodwaters began submerging the plains of Punjab and Sindh provinces.

Though CWS plans in the coming weeks to reach out to a quarter of a million people affected by the floods with nearly 3000 tonnes of food items and other relief material, Calma noted that, "these efforts would be a drop in the ocean.”


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