The scope of human suffering in Pakistan is staggering — and only expected to worsen, Southern Baptist relief workers reported from that flood-ravaged country in late August.
More than seventeen million people had been driven from their homes, and the Southern Baptist relief workers in the area pray that Southern Baptists will continue to respond and give generously.
By the end of August, about six hundred families in Pakistan's Sindh province were receiving desperately needed food supplies, thanks to the generosity of Christians who have donated to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund.
Bags of staple foods have been assembled by teams of disaster relief volunteers trained by Baptist Global Response (BGR), an international relief and development organization. The bags were funded by $12,500 specifically designated from the World Hunger Fund, said Francis Horton, who with his wife Angie directs BGR work in south Asia. For $25 per family, a food bag contains forty-four pounds of flour, twelve pounds of rice, along with oil, lentils, spices, sugar, tea, and soap.
The Indus River was not expected to reach peak flood stage for several more days, and it would be two weeks before the river returned to normal levels because high tides in the Arabian Sea were slowing drainage of floodwater, Pakistan's chief meteorologist told reporters in late August. Millions of people have lost homes, possessions, crops, and livestock, and the United Nations has estimated up to 3.5 million children are at high risk of deadly water-borne diseases.
Francis Horton observed that even in desperate straits, some Pakistani flood survivors have demonstrated generosity toward others in need. He said his team came across a group of eighty-five people, mostly women and children, who were setting up camp on a roadside after fleeing their flooded village for higher ground.
"They had arrived during the night and were camped on the edge of the highway, near an overpass," Horton wrote in an e-mail. "They had no food and very little water. We put together a plan to get back to them with some cooked food within the next few hours.
"Angie and I, along with our friends from Indus Christian Fellowship and another couple that had come with us, bought twenty-six pounds of chicken curry and 150 pieces of fresh bread and thirty cans of water and hired a truck to deliver it," Horton said. "When we arrived back at the site, we enlisted the leader to help organize and distribute the things, which he did.
"The most amazing thing happened — something I have not seen happen before in a food distribution," Horton said. "With food left, the leader said, 'That is enough for us. Give the rest to someone else who needs it.'
"I could not believe it," Horton said. "There are some people in desperate conditions here in Pakistan. We saw people who had lost most of what they own, living in makeshift tent camps. We saw trucks loaded with entire villages of people and their few belongings. And this group of people, as desperate as their need was, wanted to help others."
In another location, residents of one camp fought with residents of another camp across the road when the second group received food, water, and children's shoes from a relief team, Horton said.
With monsoon season far from over and a second flood crest moving down the Indus River, the disaster in Pakistan — and the human suffering — will continue to grow, Horton said.
"The mass of humanity this flood has moved is astounding," Horton wrote. "The breadth of this disaster is staggering — and it continues. The second crest of the river is supposed to arrive in lower Sindh this week, which will cause even more flooding.
"There are several places where landowners have broken the levies in order to divert water away from their land," Horton added. "This has caused floodwaters to race toward towns and villages that would have otherwise remained dry."
Pakistan's army and humanitarian organizations have set up tent camps to receive internally displaced people, but many families are simply living on the roadside, under trees on a flat piece of ground that looks like it will remain dry, Horton said. He has conducted disaster relief workshops with Pakistani believers, and BGR partners in the country are discussing the possibility of going with villagers when they return to their homes to help with longer-term rehabilitation efforts.
The immense scope of the disaster means Southern Baptist relief efforts could cost as much as $1 million, but donations are lagging far behind the $446,706 that already have been disbursed from existing hunger and relief funds for several projects, said Jim Brown, U.S. director for Baptist Global Response.
"Southern Baptists have always given generously to hunger and relief needs. They are a people who care about people in need," Brown said. By late September, Southern Baptists had given about $70,000 to help with this specific response.
"The scope of this response could put a strain on the hunger and relief funds to the point that we may not be able to adequately respond to a hurricane in the Americas or another major crisis like an earthquake in East Asia," Brown added.
"We are asking Southern Baptists to join us in urgent prayer for the people of Pakistan and neighboring countries who are suffering so badly because of this flood," Brown said. "This situation creates an opportunity for people to experience firsthand the love of God, who might never even meet a Christian otherwise. We're also asking people to pray that the Lord would move on people's hearts to give generously, so others can understand how to have the full and meaningful life God created them to enjoy."
Mark Kelly is a member of Peace Community Church in Gallatin, Tennessee, and is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.
How Your Gifts are Helping in Pakistan
Gifts to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund and the General Relief Fund are helping survivors of the devastating floods in Pakistan:
• $1.29 serves a flood survivor a hot meal.
• $4.13 supplies a sleeping mat.
• $8.86 provides a two-week food packet.
• $18.41 offers a tent that will give a family temporary shelter.
• $25 rents a bulldozer for one hour to help redirect floodwaters.
• $103 endows a family of ten with a large tent in which to live.
In the future, funds may be used to help provide seed to replant crops that the flooding ruined and to help replace livestock that were killed.
Gifts to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund (www.worldhungerfund.com) make effective disaster responses possible.
October 11 is World Hunger Sunday.