It seems years ago that I returned to Pakistan to take part in flood relief. As much as I wanted to daily hold in my heart the women and children from the villages and camps as well as the images of human need from this catastrophe, life has taken over adding more urgent things to my world.
Recently, while looking at pictures and reminiscing with my parents about Pakistan in general, I was reminded again of the trip and the continued devastation faced by the people of Pakistan. It was after this conversation that I received an email via my parents from family friends. Attached to the email were pictures of trees in the Sindh area of Pakistan, the leaves and branches covered in thick webs woven by spiders. In order to escape the flood waters, spiders climbed into trees and continued to do what they do best. They wove webs with intricate patterns that are strong and sticky serving as traps for insects. Pictures show trees that look like they’ve been decorated for a haunted house during American Halloween celebrations. They show ghostly grey webs over dusty leaves.
The unexpected and remarkable effect is that these webs seem to be assisting in the fight against malaria. Their fight is not with drugs, but with their webs, trapping the mosquitoes that would normally be breeding out of control in the still present flood waters. These flood waters are now still bodies of water, perfect disease-breeding environments.
I stand amazed at this small grace. While assisting in flood relief we gave out Fansidar, Chloroquine, and Doxycycline like it was candy. Fevers and chills were the most common symptoms, followed by skin diseases and malnutrition. Now seven and a half months later, these webs of protection are preventing malaria from becoming endemic, threatening lives and wellbeing.
The flood crisis affected 20 million people through displacement and loss of resources, including homes and crops, and 2000 lost their lives. Pakistan has slowly been rebuilding against tremendous odds. It’s into this context that these webbed trees and the tiny spiders that created them emerge as a small grace in the middle of continuing problems.