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World Vision, Water and the Pakistan Floods

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August 5, 2010

World Vision, Water and the Pakistan Floods

Rachel Wolff (Federal Way, WA). Senior News Director, World Vision International. "Disasters and international aid."

Ms. Wolff has been with World Vision for seven years and is their Senior News Director. It is one of the largest global relief and development organizations. Her interest in the developing world, she says, comes from growing up in Japan and Viet Nam.

Regarding the current devastating Pakistan floods, she notes that it is an extremely arid country that normally experiences extreme water shortages (although its major rivers drain from the Hindu Kush Mountains, some of the highest in the world).

Right now, there is too much water and part of the problem is a complete lack of disaster and flood planning in Pakistan. There is some draught planning but that, too, is inadequate because with global climate change, draughts are now much closer together.

Sharon noted that nothing impacts human life as dramatically as water. When water is scarce, there is more conflict and disease, and less development and education because women and children spend much of their day carrying water.

World Vision is actively involved in water and sanitation development in developing areas. Their programs involve assessment of resources, how water will be captured, how far away the water is, and local health, sanitation and hygiene practices. They go out of their way to solicit female involvement and work with local leaders, women and youth. Very often, safe and adequate water is the greatest single need. A good well can cut the local mortality rate in half!

Sharon and Rachel both agreed that even in the most desperate situations, the capacity for human hope and resilience is inspiring. Especially among children.

In Pakistan, 1,300,000 people have died because of the floods and three million people have been directly affected. Refugees are often covered with mud for days at a time and eye and skin infections are rampant. This is an area of poor sanitation to begin with.

World Vision currently has 150 people working in Pakistan, with more on the way. They have an excellent reputation and tend to be welcomed.

In Haiti, water and sanitation are the top priorities. Relief workers hand out water but there is still no way to wash, bathe or get rid of waste. In Pakistan, the floods have contaminated many wells and there is often human waste mixed with the drinking water. Also, there is no place to bury the dead and there are animal carcasses everywhere.

Normal nutrition in Pakistan consists of lentils, dates, rice and wheat, which are all very nutritious. This "comfort food" is what World Vision is distributing.

In Pakistan, World Vision is recruiting local women as health workers to work with women because most are too modest to be comfortable seeing a man and therefore could go untreated. They are also attempting to create "women friendly" and "child friendly" spaces to help them heal. Mothers and women are the culture's main providers and encouragers.