By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife with reporting from Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Up to 200,000 Christians are among the millions impacted by deadly flooding in Pakistan BosNewsLife learned Tuesday, August 17, but the United Nations warned that only a fraction of flood victims have received any help.
U.N. officials said Tuesday, August 17, nations should turn their pledges of aid into actual donations to help overcome the “biggest humanitarian crisis in the U.N’s history” that killed at least 1,600 people.
So far, the U.N. says it has received about 35 percent of the $460 million it asked for last week. The World Bank has said it will provide $900 million to fund relief.
With as many as 20 million people affected by heavy flooding in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh provinces, there is concern among aid workers that many minority Christians, who have complained of persecution, will not be reached with aid in this predominantly Islamic nation.
Barnabas Fund, a Christian aid and advocacy group, told BosNewsLife that it rescued over 100 stranded Christian families in flood stricken areas. “The 102 families are among the thousands of Christians who are receiving aid including food, water and medicine thanks to generous and swift donations from our supporters around the world since an emergency appeal was launched Monday August 2,” the group said.
The group cautioned however that “Based on the Christian population of the flooded areas – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Punjab Province and Sindh Province – it is estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 Christians may be affected.”
Many of them were unreached with aid Tuesday, August 17, along with millions of other people. There is also international concern that groups linked to Islamic militants, including al-Qaida and the Taliban fighters, are trying to be involved in aid distribution, undermining the central government of Pakistan, a country with nuclear weapons and a key U.S. ally in the war on terror.
Pakistani authorities have been unable to reach all areas of Pakistan. At least one-fifth of the country, which is about the size of the U.S. state of Florida — has been flooded in relentless monsoon rains, according to U.N. estimates.
“The scene is increasingly desperate with the disaster zone stretching from the Swat Valley in the north to Sindh in the south, and the tally of people affected has now topped 14 million,” Barnabas Fund added.
Barnabas Fund’s regional coordinator for South Asia said its partners at local churches and Christian organizations were “working tirelessly” to rescue and help those whose homes and lives have been devastated by the flooding. “Every day more victims who have been stranded by the waters are found, and the need for aid and supplies to help these brothers and sisters is relentless.”
Gospel for Asia (GFA), a large Christian mission group, said its teams are also on the scene helping victims of Pakistan’s massive floods –a disaster that is impacting more lives than even the Asian tsunami of 2004. “As soon as the flooding took place, GFA-supported workers immediately began to respond–and they are still sacrificially serving in the midst of this unthinkable tragedy,” GFA President K.P. Yohannan told BosNewsLife.
“They are reaching out with clean water, food and clothing to people who have literally lost everything,” he said.
“Equally important, they are sharing true hope with people whose futures have been utterly destroyed,” Yohannan explained, referring to local missionaries who make clear to victims that their faith in Jesus Christ motivates them to be involved in the aid effort.
Adding to the reported misery are U.N. warnings that 3.5 million children in Pakistan are at risk from water-borne diseases and that a “second wave of death” from the floods is expected.
U.N. humanitarian spokesman Maurizio Giuliano said Monday, August 16, as many as six million people face the risk of contracting diarrhea, dysentery and other illnesses if donors do not provide more aid. Yohannan made clear he shared these concerns. “Entire villages have been wiped out, crops and livestock have been destroyed, and a variety of epidemic diseases threatens much of the population. To make matters worse, the forecast is calling for more flooding over the next few days.”