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Pakistanis rebuilding lives following devastating flood

Gladys Terichow
June 3, 2011

WINNIPEG, Man. – Pakistani families watched last summer as their homes, crops, livestock and livelihoods were washed away by raging flood water that covered one-fifth of the country and left millions needing assistance.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), in partnership with other church-related organizations, continues to help some of the most vulnerable families rebuild their lives.

“Government support and compensation are minimal when such a widespread area is affected by floods,” said Willie Reimer, director of MCC’s food, disaster and material resources.

MCC is helping 300 families in the Shangla district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province start farming again through a $600,000 sustainable livelihood program that is being implemented by Church World Service-Pakistan/Afghanistan. The one-year program got underway in October 2010.

Livestock is a major source of income and nutrition for people in the Shangla district where families generally have up to three cows or buffalos, eight sheep or goats and 10 poultry.

“Many families lost their livestock during the flood or were forced to sell them after the flood because they needed money to survive or didn’t have food or shelter for the animals,” said Reimer. “The families were living on the margins before the flood and don’t have savings accounts or social safety nets, like insurance.”

The 300 households selected for the program were “the poorest of the poor,” said Reimer. Preference was given to widows and other female-headed households and to those who have minimal income and assets and are responsible for family members who are elderly or have disabilities.

Through this program, each household receives a dairy cow or a buffalo, fodder to feed the animal, building material to rebuild or restore animal shelters and stainless steel milking buckets and other milking equipment.

To increase knowledge about livestock management, participants receive training on animal health, genetics, nutrition, milk production and marketing. The program also provides training for 30 veterinary workers.

Another MCC-funded project, in partnership with Church World Service, is focusing on water, sanitation and hygiene in the Kohistan district in KPK.

This seven-month project, which started November 2010, assists flood-affected villages through repairing 32 water supply systems and 300 latrines and hand-washing facilities damaged during the floods.

About 4,500 families in 35 villages are benefitting from this $277,000 project that also includes the formation of hygiene committees, hygiene promotion trainings and distribution of kits containing non-food items.

Reimer said reports indicate that poverty contributes to lack of hygiene in these villages where families don’t have enough wood to heat water for baths and can’t afford to buy soap.

These projects build on MCC’s emergency responses to meet some of the most immediate and desperate needs of people affected by the floods that claimed the lives of almost 2,000 people, injured almost 3,000 people and affected 20 million people.

MCC’s emergency response included financial contributions to two food relief projects supported by Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) – a coalition of 15-church based agencies. These projects were led by two member agencies – Christian Reformed World Relief Committee and Presbyterian World Service & Development.

The projects provided almost $2.3 million of food assistance to families in the districts of Nowshera and Charsadda in KPK province and in the district of Naseerabad in Balochistan province.

Food packages distributed through these projects contained items such as wheat, rice, lentils, oil, tea, sugar and salt.

“What stands out for me is the careful preparation, organization and management that has gone into the planning of these projects,” said Reimer. “Participation of local people is crucial and we are working with other like-minded agencies that have long-term experience in Pakistan and long-term connections with the communities supported through these projects.”

MCC does not have its own programs or personnel in Pakistan but works in partnership with other organizations. Donations to MCC’s Pakistan flood response totalled $1.53 million.

Mennonite Central Committee: Relief, development and peace in the name of Christ