Mormon church, Islamic Relief team up for Pakistan flood relief

Published: Saturday, Sept. 11 2010 12:15 a.m. MDT

Workers in Salt Lake City Friday load supplies to be sent to Pakistan. The LDS Church is sending quilts and food.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church shipped an estimated 400,000 pounds of food, blankets and other relief aid Friday to flood-ravaged Pakistan.

"We're loading 10 containers that will be shipped to Pakistan," said Nate Leishman, the church's manager of emergency response. "We're doing this in conjunction with one of our partners, which is Islamic Relief."

Under an arrangement between the Mormons and Islamic Relief, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is donating physical goods while Islamic Relief oversees shipping and distribution.

"The containers will arrive at the Port of Karachi in about 3-4 weeks," Leishman said. "Islamic Relief has a big presence in Pakistan and quite a few aid workers over there right now. They will take the product and actually distribute it for us into the affected flood areas. It will go right to the people. They have the ability to do that much better than we do in the country of Pakistan."

Leishman said that each of the 10 containers holds approximately 40,000 pounds of hygiene kits, blankets, quilts and foodstuffs such as beans, rice and the nutritional supplement atmit.

Pakistani immigrants in Utah are also striving to succor the millions of flood victims in their homeland. The Pakistan Association of Utah, for example, has already amassed upward of $53,000 for that very purpose.

"This is not just a flood — it is a disaster," said Abdul Rashid Afridi, a fundraiser for the Pakistan Association of Utah. "There is cholera, malaria, typhoid (fever), all these diseases. There is no drinking water. There is no food. Seventy percent of Pakistan is under water; 30 million people are under the open sky.

"Different organizations are feeding them, but after three weeks they are still finding places where aid hasn't reached yet and people are dying."

Beginning Monday, the Pakistan Association of Utah will be using 10 billboards donated by local company Regan Signs to encourage donations from Utahns to aid Pakistani relief efforts.

Afridi said that the Mormon church and the Pakistan Association of Utah teamed up to help victims of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan that killed 80,000 people. This time around, Alfridi explained, LDS leaders have again taken a proactive approach to aiding Pakistan in its hour of need.

"The first two planes that landed in Pakistan, in Islamabad, during this flood were the Mormon church's," he said. "Two of their planes landed first and arrived with (a lot) of help."

Friday's shipment to Pakistan by the Mormon church won't be the last humanitarian aid going from Latter-day Saints to Pakistan. However, future iterations will likely involve on-the-ground purchases in Asia, thereby eliminating the need for costly shipping.

"I don't know about (more) shipments, but we're going to be doing a lot more on Pakistan," Leishman said. "If possible we always like to purchase the product in the country if it is available, so we'll be either be purchasing out of Pakistan or out of India and providing the product that way.

"We're also working with several humanitarian organizations in Pakistan, providing them with funds to purchase medicines, shelter items and food."

Leishman declined to disclose the monetary value of the donated goods shipped Friday.

e-mail: jaskar@desnews.com

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