ISLAMABAD, Pakisan (ABP) — Baptists around the globe are responding to the floods that have afflicted Pakistan for two weeks, sending money and resources in the aftermath of what could become the nation’s biggest natural disaster in modern times.
According to United Nations estimates, nearly 1,700 people have died in the floods and as many as 14 million more have been affected — with many millions left at least temporarily homeless. They were spurred along the Indus River watershed by unusually heavy seasonal monsoon rains, and floodwaters continued to travel southward Aug. 13.
Southern Baptists in the United States sent an initial $20,000 and British Baptists contributed £10,000 (about U.S. $16,000) shortly after the floods began. Additional contributions have augmented both of those grants.
According to Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist relief-and-development agency, the U.S. funds have paid for rescuers, food, tents for displaced survivors, medicine and other supplies.
BMS World Mission, the missions affiliate of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, does not have any missions workers in Pakistan, but is working with a partner agency in the nation to provide food relief.
“We need to deliver all that is required as soon as possible,” said John Holmes, the U.N. undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, according to a U.N. press release. “The death toll has been relatively low compared to other major natural disasters. But if we don’t act fast enough, many more people could die of disease and food shortage.”
The U.N. has appealed for $460 million in funds to respond to the crisis. So far, about $150 million has been contributed or pledged by donors.
Experts warned Aug. 13 that many more lives could be lost due to the spread of disease and lack of sanitation in stricken areas — many of which are in remote parts of the nation of 177 million.
In addition, long-term work will be needed after the floodwaters have receded, according to relief-and-development experts. The floods have destroyed much of Pakistan’s already-tenuous infrastructure.
“With disasters of this kind, the bigger challenges often come during the later recovery phase of work, when homes, sanitation and livelihoods need to be restored, and it is very probable that BMS will be looking to help during that phase as well,” said Steve Sanderson, manager for mission partnerships at BMS World Mission.
–Robert Marus is managing editor and Washington bureau chief for Associated Baptist Press.