Flood-stricken Pakistan braces for long-haul response
Some rural areas are just now receiving assistance
Jabran Gill and a response team from Pak Mission Society ran into more people displaced by flooding along the roadside in the hard-hit Sindh province of Pakistan. They paused their plans to hand out aid in the city of Sanghar to help them.
“They were just sleeping, and they were in the open air and lots of mosquitoes were there,” recalled Gill, the ministry’s disaster response lead.
He said the team distributed mosquito nets to each family, spurring prayers and blessings. The record flooding that began in mid-June has killed more than 1,500 people and left more than 660,000 others homeless.
More aid has started arriving in the region, but the crisis is still in the initial stages. Officials say the damage has surpassed $10 billion and it would take up to six months to drain water from flooded areas.
Floodwaters destroyed more than 4 million acres of crops and killed more than 800,000 livestock, according to the International Rescue Committee. The United Nations and countries such as the United States have sent more than 90 airplanes loaded with aid. But response teams are still battling limitations in rural communities. Gill’s team heard from widows and single mothers who struggled to get aid in communities where only men speak for the families. Security forces are also contending with militant attacks. Five people died on Tuesday when a roadside bomb struck a car carrying local village leaders and police in the flood-hit Swat valley.
Meanwhile, health officials are trying to curb waterborne diseases. Sindh province recorded more than 90,000 cases of diarrhea in a single day this month. Water Mission President George Greene IV said the ministry has delivered water treatment systems and small packets of water purifying chemicals to local aid partners.
Greene said people need longer-term support to rebuild. He also sees the crisis as a greater chance for ministry in the Muslim-majority nation. Water Mission was active in Pakistan after flooding in 2007. Greene said Pakistani church leaders credited the ministry’s water projects completed after that with helping to plant 500 churches.
“When you think about going in and meeting a physical need when somebody is hanging on by a thread, the question comes up, why are you doing this?” Greene asked. “And that gives us a chance to talk about the faith we have.”
CHINA: Officials are enforcing strict lockdowns to keep COVID-19 cases low ahead of next month’s Congress, at which leader Xi Jinping will likely secure a third term as president. In Xinjiang’s Ili Kazakh autonomous prefecture, desperate residents vented on social media over a coronavirus lockdown stretching longer than one month. Among the 4.5 million confined, many are angry about the lack of food and medicine. The China Digital Times reported authorities ordered censors to flood Weibo, a microblogging platform, with mundane posts to drown out residents’ complaints. In Sichuan province, where last Monday’s earthquake killed more than 90 people, 21 million Chengdu residents remain locked down indefinitely. China recorded an average of 1,166 new daily cases of COVID-19 last week.
KENYA: William Ruto, 55, assumed office Tuesday as Kenya’s fifth president and first evangelical leader. The Supreme Court upheld his election win, rejecting his defeated rival’s challenge. A former deputy president, Ruto ran as a “hustler” against Kenya’s political dynasties. The vocal Christian has been called “Deputy Jesus”—mockingly by his opponents and sincerely by his supporters. Ruto opposes homosexuality and abortion, which helped him garner support from some Muslims in the majority-Christian country. He leads a nation now facing surging food and fuel prices, high unemployment, and growing public debt.
INDIA: India’s Supreme Court granted bail last week to a Muslim journalist after more than 700 days behind bars. Police arrested Siddique Kappan in October 2020 on his way to the town of Hathras, where authorities secretly cremated the body of a gang-rape victim who died from the assault. The woman belonged to the Dalit community, the lowest level of India’s caste system. Police accused Kappan of intending to start a riot and raising funds for terrorism. He is still facing charges of money laundering.
LEBANON: A gun-wielding Lebanese woman held up a bank in Beirut on Wednesday, demanding $13,000 from her family’s account. Sali Hafiz, who later said she brandished a toy gun, revealed she needed the money to help with her sister’s cancer treatment. Lebanon’s economic crisis that began three years ago has led banks to stop customers from accessing their funds. Police detained another man who held up a bank in a city northeast of Beirut on Wednesday.
LATIN AMERICA: Mennonites in Peru and Mexico are facing rising tensions with authorities and ecologists over deforestation. Living on farming as a faith tenet, they moved to these regions in search of more agricultural land. But as their communities expand, they are also clearing more forests to keep farming. In Peru, prosecutors accuse Mennonites of illegally deforesting more than 8,500 acres of the Amazon in the past five years, The Guardian reported. Mennonites in Mexico are also accused of excessively clearing the Maya Forest, which threatens endangered species and reduces rainfall.
CHAD: Dozens of nomad children sit under an open sky to learn in the mobile school that Leonard Gamaigue, 28, started three years ago. About 7 percent of Chad’s 16 million citizens are nomadic herders who travel with their cattle. Less than 1 percent of the nomad children attend school. Gamaigue told Al Jazeera his school travels with the nomads, teaching the children proper French and math with the help of donated supplies. He now has 69 students of varying ages.
WORLD Asia correspondent Joyce Wu contributed to this report.
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