C. Asia's harsh winter calls for quick action

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Central Asia is suffering through its worst winter in at least 30 years, and Southern Baptists have moved to help isolated villages where people are in danger of starvation.

In Afghanistan's Sheberghan district, winters usually are relatively mild and short. Snow falls for brief periods and then melts. This year, however, heavy snows fell for more than a week and temperatures then dropped to -11 degrees Fahrenheit for the following week, leaving roads and communities snowbound. Over the next two weeks, daytime temperatures rarely rose above freezing.

The human death toll has risen to 483, and at least 147,000 head of livestock have died.

"Travel between cities halted, preventing arrival of regular food supplies," said Francis Horton, Central and South Asia area director for Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist international relief and development organization. "People were terribly unprepared. Many of them did not have warm enough clothing or blankets for these temperatures, and most of them did not have enough food supplies to last through it. Widows, returning refugees, and disabled individuals are particularly vulnerable."

In nearby Tajikistan, winter crops like wheat froze and yielded no produce at all.

"Many villages have no resources to deal with this crisis," Horton said. "In many places people are starving."

A total of $117,636 has been allocated from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund to clear roads, purchase flour, powdered milk, rice, beans, oil, blankets and winter clothing for more than 10,500 families in both countries. "The World Food Program and other organizations had tons of food ready to truck into the worst areas, but no way to get there," Horton said. "Roads had to be cleared so food supplies could get there -- literally connecting people in need with people who care."

Horton asked Christians worldwide to pray for the people in Central Asia whose lives and destinies are in danger.

"Pray for people who are struggling with no electricity, rationed water and very little firewood," he said. "Pray that this work will save physical lives. More importantly, pray that God would use these hard times to further His Kingdom, so that the saving of physical lives is not in vain."


Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.

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