Authors Posts by Communications Office

Communications Office

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Church World Service-Pakistan/Afghanistan held its second workshop with university students on the issue of social discrimination against religious minority communities, attended by 26 students from the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.  The four-day workshop was held at O’Spring, Murree, and explored the ways in which minority communities experience discrimination at a social level.  The students all have extensive experience in the creative arts, with a range of backgrounds including photography, theater, music, film, art, and dance.

Dr. Atif, who has been facilitating CWS-P/A’s partnership with the university, shared that both he and the students initially had some concerns about attending the session.  After the introductory workshop held on campus, some of the students had been afraid that the purpose of the project was evangelical, and they had been resistant to the concept of religious discrimination.  However, Dr. Atif confirmed that these fears have now been resolved.  “The facilitator let the students speak, and the concerns about religion were addressed very well.”

Dr. Atif remains convinced of the importance of the project for his students.  “I have experienced discrimination, and I had a choice to either close myself off or try to break the cycle.  Everyone has a right to peace and happiness.”  Dr. Atif viewed the premise of the workshop as a gateway to addressing discrimination more broadly in the future.  He believes that by addressing discrimination against religious minority groups, awareness will also be raised about existing prejudices across society and the ways in which ethnic, linguistic, and economically marginalized communities face discrimination.  He feels that the message of tolerance will be well received by other students on campus and that the action planning included in the workshop is a valuable way to support the students to maintain their efforts.  “There are so many things we can do,” he says.

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Recent assessments by the humanitarian community indicate that the post-flood health situation in Pakistan is deteriorating. Scabies, diarrhea, and respiratory tract infections are significantly increasing. Dengue fever continued taking its toll as the number of cases reached an alarming 9,402 in Punjab on Friday, October 19.

Nearly two months after the floods devastated parts of the country, stagnant water remains a major factor in health risks. Inaccessibility to proper water and sanitation facilities coupled with poor hygiene practices increases the prevalence of illness and the spread of diseases.

Pakistan’s health system is insufficient to meet the health needs of the population; public health expenditure is only 1.0% of GDP.[1] Government health facilities have the main responsibility for providing health services, but they often lack qualified staff and infrastructure. The weak health system is overburdened. Parallel to the public health system are private health facilities which are only accessible by the middle and upper classes due to cost.

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On October 14, 2014, the ACT Pakistan Forum members, Church World Service-Pakistan/Afghanistan and Norwegian Church Aid, facilitated an online discussion with Annette Hearns, Deputy Head of Office, UNOCHA. The first of its kind, this online discussion organized at CWS-P/A’s Islamabad Office, enabled ACT members worldwide to hear firsthand the post-flood situation and ask questions. 

Ms. Hearns described the situation as it stood a month after floods devastated parts of Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Punjab, and Sindh provinces. Describing the different needs in various provinces and underlying differences such as levels of preparedness and existing vulnerabilities, she expressed how great the needs are despite marked improvement in the implementation of early warning systems. She was pleased to announce that the Multi-Sector Initial Rapid Assessment had finally been approved by the Government. According to the MIRA report, conducted in Punjab, a majority of the relief needs were being covered; however, recovery efforts are critical. She also reported that the government has requested UNDP to conduct a recovery needs assessment and the World Bank and Asian Development Bank to conduct a damage needs assessment.

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CWS-P/A received a letter of gratitude from the Livestock Department Kohat for its poultry distribution to displaced and host communities, aiming to improve livelihood.

Continuous insurgency and military operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan has resulted in a huge influx of displaced families in Kohat and surrounding areas. CWS-P/A’s initiative aims to address the challenges of livelihood opportunities and other basic necessities for the displaced and host communities. With assistance from female village committee members, CWS-P/A identified 70% of IDPs and 30% of host families for receiving the poultry package. A total of 400 families received ten crossbreed hens and two roosters along with a cage equipped with a drinker and feeder.  Training on backyard poultry farming and poultry feed were also provided.

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“I really like attending summer camps. It is very interactive and good learning for us. The best thing I like is taking part in role plays and group work because this teaches us the importance of team work,” shared Sakina, a student.

In October, Church World Service-Pakistan/Afghanistan organized a three-day camp for fifty girls and ten female teachers at a school located in Surkhroad District, Nangarhar Province. To improve the quality of school curriculum in Afghanistan, this camp aims to raise awareness and build capacity of students and teachers on handling key social, political, cultural, and human rights issues. Through a participatory approach, participants were encouraged to express their thoughts and talent during group discussions, art work, speeches, and role plays.