Skip to content
ELCA Blogs

Lutheran Disaster Response

Earthquake in Pakistan

A 7.2 earthquake has hit a remote area of southwestern Pakistan. Today’s quake was centered in Baluchistan, Pakistan’s most sparsely populated area, according to the US Geological Service. The quake’s epicenter was centered in a remote area about 200 miles, or 320 kilometers, southwest of the Baluchistan capital of Quetta, the Associated Press reported. The quake was felt in several neighboring provinces and in major cities, including Karachi.  Police from Karachi report no damage or loss of life as of now.

The ELCA’s partner, CWS in Pakistan, has a long record of responding after earthquakes, including the 7.5-magnitude quake that hit Pakistan in 2005.  CWS will conduct assessments and prepare a response if needed.

Pakistan: Images of Flooding in Swat

These photos were taken in one of the worst-affected areas of Swat where ACT member CWS is working. The journey is possible by vehicle in only some locations while for other segments it is necessary to travel by foot. Click to view images of key areas where ACT members are working.

A cycle of loss and destruction is testing Pakistan’s resilience

Of the current situation in Pakistan, Pakistan-based staff members of Church World Service offer the following reflection:

In the five years since the 2005 earthquake devastated parts of Pakistan, not one year has gone by in which the people of Pakistan have not suffered from disaster. The years 2006 and 2007 brought floods; although not even close to the destruction brought by this year’s floods, people still lost their lives, homes, crops and livestock.

In 2008, a powerful earthquake rendered thousands homeless in Balochistan at the onset of winter. In 2009, millions of people were displaced by the conflict between the Pakistan military and militants in Khyber Pakhtunkwa and Waziristan.

Throughout these years, severe drought and water shortages plagued the agricultural communities, which constantly live with the reality of food insecurity. Now, 2010, a year that was supposed to be a time of new beginnings and the continued road to recovery of previous disasters, has turned into a record-breaking year for flood destruction and not just in one province, but throughout the entire country.

Resilient is a word often used to describe the people of Pakistan, but this cycle of loss and destruction is truly testing this attribute. Thousands of people have been living in pre-fabricated shelters still trying to regain their lives and livelihoods lost five years ago.

Entire communities began to experience rebirth but now these very same people must start over again after the floodwaters are gone. Displaced persons, many who have only recently returned home to Swat and other areas, once again find themselves without homes and property. Farmers who were already struggling with food insecurity have lost or may lose this year’s harvest, thus, pushing them farther away from achieving food security for their families.

Undoubtedly the floods have caused widespread damage to agricultural and crop lands, adding further threats of food insecurity to flood-affected families. Particularly affected are the crop lands in the province of Punjab, known as the breadbasket of Pakistan – thereby exacerbating the problems facing the country. As sources of food supply remain underwater, families face the possibility of not being able to harvest and sow their crops. Worsening the situation — increased prices for essentials like sugar.

What is most worrisome is the harsh test of time, and a cycle of never-ending disasters: Flood-affected families in Kashmir, Muzaffarabad, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balakot had already experienced massive devastation in the 2005 South Asian earthquake.

“People in the affected areas are most vulnerable and they had hardly managed to get their lives back together after the earthquake. Again everything they had is taken away from them,” said Dennis Joseph, associate director of the CWS program in Pakistan. “At this moment it is not just their material well-being but also their physical well-being, which includes their mental well-being that is important.”

Dennis shared the story of Mehr Nisar, a 50-year-old widow from Punda Balla Village. She told Joseph: “I lost my husband in the earthquake, and I was living in a [pre-fabricated] shelter with my son after that. This has now been destroyed as half of the land under the shelter was washed away.”

The long road to recovery in Haiti: Some close-ups

In northern Haiti, members of a community-based group began a feeding program for those displaced by the January 12 earthquake. In the southern coastal city of Jacmel, a group of disaster survivors banded together and moved onto the grounds of a local church. And in Port-au-Prince, a woman who gave birth to her infant son twelve days after the quake wondered what she would do next.

These were some of the Haitians CWS staffer Chris Herlinger met in January and February, immediately after the disaster. Durring a recent return to Haiti, Chris attempted to find these individuals. How are they doing? What are they doing? What are their plans for the future?  Here is an update, based on recent travels in Haiti.

Click here to read more.

Pakistan floods: Church World Service delivers aid amid massive obstacles

ELCA Disaster Response has committed $100,000 to the CWS appeal to respond in Pakistan.  This is a recent news release from CWS on the situation.

With more than 3.2 million people displaced or affected by monsoon rains and the worst flooding in north Pakistan in nearly a century, global humanitarian agency Church World Service has announced a U.S. and international fundraising appeal.

The agency reports that its aid workers in the region are continuing their initial response, providing food packages, shelter materials and non-food supplies. In addition, one mobile health unit has been dispatched so far, delivering emergency health services in Balakot.

CWS Pakistan team members report an increasing need for assistance, and say blocked roadways and communications continue to hamper aid workers from reaching cut-off survivors with vital food and supplies.

CWS Pakistan Senior Project Officer Tassaduq Hussain described the situation in Banna, Allai Tehsil, saying lack of communications and passable roads continues to hinder access to elevated areas of Allai. “Here, there is major food shortage in markets, and the condition for the people is not good.”

Hussain said teams are hoping roads will reopen today, although more rain is expected. He said the most immediate needs are food packages and shelter materials.

Elsewhere, from Sibbi, Balochistan, CWS Pakistan Senior Project Officer Saleem Dominic reported a similar situation. “Food is the initial, immediate need, with hygiene and shelter next. Houses are completely destroyed and flood water remains in the houses, which poses health risks,” Dominic said.

CWS is the first organization to distribute food in Sibbi, “for which the people are very grateful,” said Dominic.

Assessments by CWS and partners indicate survivors face grave challenges given the loss of housing, crops and livestock. Most of the affected villages are still inundated, and people in general have little to eat and no means to earn money.

CWS, other humanitarian groups and Pakistan government officials are voicing concern over the destruction of some 100,000 acres of fertile soil along the Swat River, a main source for food for 50,000 people in the area, which will take years to renew.

But for now, urgent rescue and relief continues. Church World Service plans a response to a wide geographic area, subject to change in the weeks ahead based on changing conditions and needs.

Initial CWS efforts have included providing 500 food and shelter kits in Sibbi, conducting assessments in affected areas and identifying beneficiaries, and engaging the agency’s mobile health clinic services, now providing patient examinations, essential drugs and prenatal care.

Based on assessments conducted by its staff and local partners, CWS plans to provide emergency assistance to 70,000 people in Swat, DI Khan, Sibbi and Kohistan, including food assistance to 35,000 people; emergency shelter supplies to meet the needs of 17,500 people; and mobile health access for 17,500 people in Mansehra and Swat.

Church World Service has worked in Pakistan for more than five decades and is a leading agency in promoting and adhering to international Sphere and Humanitarian Accountability Partnership standards for aid quality and accountability, and as such, focuses keenly on the quality and the nutritional value and mix of the foods distributed in disaster settings.

CWS food packages will be distributed directly to affected families at convenient food distribution points established in each community and consist of 44 lbs. each of wheat flour and rice, 4¼ lbs. each of beans and sugar, 10½ cups of cooking oil, 7 oz. of tea, and a box of iodized salt.

As well, CWS will assess the particular nutrition needs and status of children under 5 years of age in beneficiary families, to determine if supplemental food resources will be required in later weeks.

Church World Service is working with other members of the ACT Alliance Pakistan Forum as part of a coordinated response.  CWS Pakistan also has planned ten introductory Sphere and HAP international standards workshops for humanitarian organizations in different Pakistan cities, to ensure quality and accountability in the Pakistan flood response.