Pakistan (WRN/MNN) — Deserts don’t strike people as “fertile” usually. However, Tharparkar, Pakistan boasts the only fertile desert in the world…up until now.
It is the third-largest province of Pakistan and in the triangle bordered by both Iran and Afghanistan. In normal years, you get the mix of monsoon rains and dry season. However, this year is anything but “normal” for the people in Tharparkar. Wayne DeJong with World Renew explains, “Most often, we’ve been dealing with monsoon flooding, and we responded in 2010, 2011-12 to the monsoon floods. But in November 2013, there was a failure of the monsoon rains, and about two million people were affected.”
The New Normal
So, if this was a problem nine months ago, why are we still talking about it? DeJong answers, “A lot of people have been selling their livestock, and they’ve been able to cope [with the drought] with income received from those sales. They’ve also been borrowing money. But over the last nearly nine months since the drought began, many people have exhausted their coping mechanisms.”
In addition, food prices have skyrocketed due to the combination of poor harvest and increasing numbers of Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) and refugees due to conflict in neighboring countries.
According to recent research, Pakistanis could spend nearly half of their income on food and beverages. That means coping mechanisms will end much sooner than the 2014 harvest is due.
The southeast province of Sindh has been most affected, and particularly Tharparkar district. It’s not that the region is cut off from help. Rather, says DeJong, “The government just didn’t have the resources to adequately respond to all of the needs in the area because of the scope of the drought in that district. Also, other international organizations also didn’t have the resources to respond.”
Being Part of the Solution
World Renew is responding, together with the Interfaith League Against Poverty. Through a project funded by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, World Renew and ILAP are by providing food assistance to 4,290 families who have been severely impacted by the drought. World Renew’s project will focus specifically on these underserved communities that have a high percentage of minority groups.
DeJong adds, “This district is about two-thirds Muslim and about one-third Hindu.” While this project isn’t about overt Gospel work, the people they’re helping are well aware of who motivates their teams. “It’s a good way for us to demonstrate the love of Christ to people when they’re in need. They hear that message loud and clear through our deed ministry.”
The Long Road Ahead
Through World Renew and ILAP, families will receive a food basket that contains wheat flour, rice, lentils, cooking oil, energy biscuits, dates, salt, sugar, and tea leaves. In order to help people restore their livelihoods, World Renew will also provide fodder to keep livestock alive and healthy. “It’s really a pretty straight forward project but in a fairly challenging context where there are some security concerns. So pray for the safety of their staff.”
Please pray for the families struggling under drought conditions in Pakistan, for their improved health, and for their livestock health. Please pray for timely monsoon rains that will allow families to replant their crops and resume their livestock-raising livelihoods once again.