Derry Concern Group issues fresh appeal for Pakistan flood victims

Over the past few years the Derry Concern group has launched a number of requests from the public for funds to support our fellow human beings affected by a number of disasters.

The war in Afghanistan has led to untold suffering for the whole population.

War closer to home in Ukraine has led to three million people forced to emigrate and six million displaced internally. In both these disasters Concern was supported by the generosity of the people of Derry and Donegal.

Another threat to mankind as a whole is climate change. It may well be that the exceptional summer we have enjoyed was caused by changes to our climate. The people of Pakistan are experiencing its horrendous negative impact.

People going to their village to check the situation and to take out the things. Location near Sanjar Chang town in Sindh. Photo: Emmanuel Guddo/Concern Worldwide

The local flash floods of 2017 are a distant memory to most of us but not to those directly affected, among them the man who had to carry his mother on his back to safety as the water rushed through their house in Burnfoot, Donegal.

The people in Eglinton were rescued by a local farmer on his tractor. Farmers in the Glenelly valley had fields ruined as huge boulders were dumped by the swollen river. For these people there was fear as the floods overwhelmed them and continuing anxiety in the following weeks and even years.

Whatever these problems for the people most affected, only a small number of people had to be rescued, houses and businesses had to be cleaned and infrastructure like bridges had to be repaired.

Given that we live in a comparatively rich country, the trauma was not widespread or long lasting. Nobody died and the impact was for most short lived.

In many cases those who were affected were able to make insurance claims or sought direct help from various government agencies.

The floods of 2017 do give us an insight into the situation in Pakistan but the scale is so much worse. Caused by global warming heating the Indian Ocean, there have been mega monsoon rains, never experienced before.

A huge volume of water from the monsoon rains has collided with meltwater from glaciers high in the mountains.

The devastation is hard to imagine. One third of the country is reported to be flooded. Over a thousand people have been killed with many reported missing.

Whole villages in the mountains have been swept away. Vital to survival, large areas of farmland are destroyed. Communications in many areas are impossible as the flood water and infrastructure destruction makes even estimating the extent of the problems impossible.

Crops needed for survival rice, vegetables and fruit have been ruined. The capacity of the people to cope is limited.

The population of Pakistan is 240 million. Concern Worldwide has been working in Pakistan for many years. It is estimated that 24 per cent of the population are already suffer from hunger.

Concern has been working for years to provide emergency food and help to farmers to develop greater food security. In this emergency Concern is providing cash to purchase tarpaulins for emergency shelter, food and medical supplies.

Concern is part of Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) , an umbrella group of 15 charities, coordinating help on the ground. Concern’s experience in Pakistan will be invaluable in the emergency response and long term recovery.

The resources available to cope with this disaster do not exist with the government or local population. Thirty three million people have been affected by the floods. Many of them are barely coping in normal circumstances.

As always the biggest impact of these situations are felt by the poorest in society. It is a cruel irony that Pakistan, as a poor country, contributes less than one per cent to global warming but is in the top ten of countries around the world affected most by its impact.

There is a sense in which our relative prosperity, linked to the excessive use of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution, has led to serious problems in Pakistan and in many other poor countries in the world.

The Pakistani government has made an urgent appeal for international assistance. António Guterres, the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, has launched an appeal to the international community for $160 to help in the immediate aftermath of the floods. There are estimates of $10 million to repair the damage long term.

Some of us have experienced at first hand the misery of flooding at a local level.

The Concern group in Derry hopes to contribute in a small way to the altogether more serious suffering of people in Pakistan and has launched an appeal on their behalf.

Donations will be channeled to those working already on the ground with Concern in Pakistan.

Donations can be made to the appeal at the bookshop in Ferryquay Street or sent directly to Concern through their website. There is also a direct link: www.concern.org.uk/pakistanappeal