UMCOR

United Methodist Committee on Relief

South Asia Floods: Dire Food Needs

A family with both home and food-stocks ruined by floods in Jacobabad, Sindh Province, Pakistan
A family with both home and food-stocks ruined by floods in Jacobabad, Sindh Province, Pakistan. 

By David Tereshchuk*

September 17, 2013—South Asia’s monsoon rains can often disrupt life severely, but August 2013 has inflicted flash floods on large stretches of Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan that have been especially devastating.

August is the time for what people in the region call the “Sixth Spell” of rains that come during a 12-week season—and this year it has also wrought havoc in neighboring Myanmar (formerly Burma). In response, the conscience and resources of United Methodists and others of goodwill have been energized in bringing relief to all three countries.

UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, has stepped in with support to its partner agency and fellow-member of the international ACT Alliance, the Church World Service’s Pakistan/Afghanistan division. CWS is now distributing emergency food packages that can meet an individual’s requirements for a month.

The help is sorely needed, for besides the wholesale destruction of homes (estimated in Pakistan and Afghanistan to total many thousands) the food resources of flood-hit communities have been devastatingly affected as well.

In Pakistan alone, more than 826,000 acres of crop cultivation have been inundated and at least 10,000 animals killed. Dairy and poultry farms were often entirely swept away in raging floodwaters, and inevitably the prices of dairy products and meat have been skyrocketing.

Families have less money to spend now anyway, as the rains, in many cases, washed away work opportunities—and income. At the same time, their existing food stocks often have been left severely damaged or completely destroyed by the rains. 

In Myanmar, specifically in the southeastern region, where the worst flooding occurred, Church World Service is being helped by UMCOR to provide food packages to fend off starvation and malnutrition.

In Kayin state, families are being issued a combination of rice, beans, and cooking oil. Across Kayin, flood damage has been severe, not least in the town of Pha An, with waist-high waters coursing through its often extremely narrow streets. About 400 Pha An families have received the food packages.

CWS and local partners have surveyed the area’s rice fields, and they report widespread destruction of this year’s crop. Repairs to the communities’ basic infrastructure and to the many damaged homes will take time. And in addition, water sources have been contaminated, thus exposing families to greater danger of waterborne diseases.

One feature of Myanmar’s traditional agricultural practice makes the situation considerably worse. The flash floods robbed farmers of the vital opportunity for crop cultivation which the monsoon period generally offers them; it is vital because farmers mostly lack irrigation machinery that would allow them to plant during dry periods.

Losing this important source of both food and income is bound to heighten the threat of serious food insecurity by the end of this year, and into next year.

Your gift to International Disaster Response: Advance #982450 will help UMCOR respond when disasters such as this one strike vulnerable communities anywhere in the world.

* David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to www.UMCOR.org.

Your gift to International Disaster Response, Advance #982450, allows UMCOR to respond to emergencies such as the flooding in Pakistan, and support the efforts of partners like CWS-P/A to bring relief to vulnerable communities.