Community World Service Asia, with the support of the ACT Alliance, has been working to respond to the needs of families affected by severe flooding in 2015.  District Sujawal, in the Sindh province of Pakistan, has been faced with many serious health risks in the aftermath of the flooding.  Access to health facilities and services is a major issue for the community, as the nearest government health facility is at least five kilometers away.  With high levels of poverty, unreliable income sources and the losses faced by families as a result of the floods, the cost of transport and treatment can be an insurmountable obstacle.

Stagnant water and poor shelter conditions result in widespread incidences of malaria, diarrhea, fever, scabies and other skin diseases.  Families who have been displaced by the flooding, as well as young children and the elderly, are especially vulnerable to these illnesses.

Community World Service Asia has been working directly with communities in the Union Councils of Bello and Bijora in District Sujawal for many years, and has developed strong relationships in these areas.  In order to meet the urgent health needs of these communities, a seven-month project was initiated in August 2015.  Mobile health units enabled vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities to access health care in their own villages, and have consultations with doctors.  A total of 12,793 patients were examined by doctors in this seven-month period, which enabled health issues to be properly identified and addressed.  Essential medicines were also provided to patients, which eased the financial burden of health needs and ensured that patients were able to receive the treatment they needed.

In such situations of uncertainty and insecurity, pregnant women in particular are faced with specific risks and challenges.  A Lady Health Visitor and a doctor were also available to provide vital ante- and post-natal care services to 388 women.

As well as responding to current health needs, 362 awareness-raising sessions on health and hygiene were delivered to 8,378 community members in order to prevent the outbreak of illness through improved knowledge and practices.

Community World Service Asia is committed to the accountability of all its interventions, and works to ensure that our projects are implemented in a way that is inclusive and participatory.  A key method for engaging and empowering the communities we work with is to form village committees, who play a vital role in liaising between the communities and the project teams, identifying relevant issues and mobilizing the community.  In seven months 24 village health committees were formed in Union Councils.  We are also committed to ensuring that the voices of all affected people are heard, so half of these committees are women’s committees, and are dedicated to highlighting and addressing the needs of women in the area.

Sindh is known as the “breadbasket of Pakistan”, as the agricultural sector in the province directly supports around three quarters of the country’s population.  However, due to heavy rains, cyclones and sea intrusion, leading to rising water levels, as well as the flat topography of the land, the area is extremely vulnerable to flooding, and has suffered extensively from the effects of flooding, which causes extensive damage to the lives, health, livelihoods and homes of millions of people living around river embankments in low lying areas.

Community World Service Asia has been working to meet the urgent food needs of families displaced by flooding and residing temporarily in underdeveloped areas of Sajawal district.  The floods not only washed away their belongings, but also destroyed standing crops, leaving them food insecure and vulnerable to malnutrition and illness. To address the critical food insecurity faced by these families, Community World Service Asia provided food assistance through the distribution of wheat seeds to enable the affected farmers to sow for the coming cropping season. Each of the 1,470 farming families was provided with 100 kilograms of wheat seed, to cultivate two acres of land. The harvest from this crop would enable the families to meet their food needs until the next harvest.

Monthly food rations were also provided for a period of five months while waiting for the harvest. Rations were distributed to 2,100 families, including 70 kilograms of fortified wheat flour 70, six kilograms of pulses, five liters of oil and ten match boxes. All packages adhere to international standards to ensure that the needs of vulnerable people are respected and met.

Community World Service Asia believes in incorporating sustainability into its relief efforts, and in developing the long-term resilience of the communities with which we work.  This initiative therefore included the training of 1,470 farmers on integrated crop management, a holistic approach to sustainable agriculture based on indigenous knowledge, and the training of 419 community members on disaster risk reduction practices.

As part of the capacity building on disaster risk reduction, a tree plantation campaign, titled “One Family, One Tree”, has been initiated to protect the community from soil erosion, which exacerbates the risks of flooding.  The campaign supports the government’s efforts to minimize the threats posed by climate change and future environmental hazards, and was welcomed by the community.  With support and facilitation from the district administration and the Social Forestry Department, some 2,200 saplings for Eucalyptus, Bakine and Neem trees were provided at subsidized rates of just PKR 2 (approximately US$ 0.02) per plant.

Community World Service Asia is delighted by the enthusiasm and commitment to the campaign, and will continue to support efforts for a green future for Pakistan.