August 27, 2010

29RNS: Relief Workers Risk Lives in Pakistan Flood Chaos

Relief Workers Risk Lives
in Pakistan Flood Chaos

BY MARK KELLY                                                                                                                  ©2010 Baptist Press
Relief workers are risking their lives to help an estimated 8 million people in urgent need of assistance in Pakistan's flood crisis, Southern Baptist humanitarian workers report.

Several ministry partners have been beaten and three have died in rain-swollen rivers. Chaos often is erupting when limited food supplies are delivered to multitudes of hungry people.

"Since it's an evolving situation, things are unfolding. Our estimate has gone up and now eight million are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance," U.N. spokesman Maurizio Giuliano told reporters August 19. "Roughly 4.6 million people are still without shelter," including hundreds of thousands of people who are still looking for refuge from the ongoing monsoon rains, he said.

Flood survivors mobbed relief trucks carrying food and authorities warn famine could sweep the northwest region unless farmers get immediate help planting new crops, news reports said. The country has been flooding for three weeks but conditions do not seem to be improving for most of the 20 million people—one in nine Pakistanis—who have lost homes, possessions, crops, livestock, and loved ones.

Southern Baptists have responded with $225,000 in relief and hunger funds and are working with national ministry partners to deliver supplies to people in need, said Francis Horton, who with his wife, Angie, directs work in South Asia for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization.

"We are meeting with several partners, trying to get an assessment of needs that have been met and needs that we can meet," Horton said in an August 17 e-mail from Pakistan. "Our national partners are doing a great job in helping people. The task is huge. The disaster grows. Housing is a huge need.

"Three national partners have died and one is in critical condition after falling into the river," Horton added. "There has been some unrest in some places. I have seen reports of partners being beaten and one team leader told me chaos has broken out at a couple of places as people reached with their bare hands into the serving pots to get food.

"The UN has said that this disaster has affected more people than the past few earthquakes and tsunami combined," Horton continued. "Much like Katrina, there has been a limited but tragic number of people killed. Millions more became homeless and helpless. Caring for millions of survivors is incredibly difficult."  

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