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Recovering in Pakistan

Many people who survived the deadly earthquake that struck northern Pakistan and northern India on 8 October 2005 have had to cope with the loss of loved ones, the total disruption of daily life and harsh winter conditions. An international response provides assistance that ranges from stoves to psychosocial support.


©Olav A. Saltbones / Norwegian Red Cross

 

A boy in a Turkish Red Crescent Society camp in Pakistan-administered Kashmir is troubled by the terrible earthquake that killed his parents. He can’t sleep. And for a month after the earthquake, the boy was silent, refusing to speak to anyone.

In the boy’s tent camp, Turkish Red Crescent psychologists are running a psychosocial programme, offering activities to children traumatized by the disaster that claimed countless lives and left an estimated 3.5 million people homeless just before the winter.

The psychologists ask children to write a letter to their loved ones. The silent, tired boy writes to his parents. “On the day of the earthquake I just went out to buy some chocolate. I didn’t know that I would be punished by Allah for buying chocolate. When I came home you weren’t there and our house was gone. I will never eat chocolate again. Never.” Slowly the boy begins to communicate with a Turkish Red Crescent psychosocial delegate.

When the time comes for the Turkish Red Crescent to hand over their psychological support activities to Pakistan Red Crescent Society psychologists, the little boy waves goodbye, like many others in the camp.

A huge operation is under way in quake-hit areas, with more than 20 Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies, the ICRC and the International Federation working together to secure people’s basic physical and psychological needs. So far, the relief effort has reached more than 81,000 families, or about 570,000 people, with a range of non-food items such as shelter or kitchen essentials. Of this group, more than 50,000 families have received the complete package, which includes a tent, blankets, quilts, stoves, cooking sets, hygiene parcels and collapsible jerry cans.

Psychosocial programmes are running in four camps. To complement the other activities, the operation includes health care, which so far 183,000 people have benefited from, safe water and sanitation.

Although the operation is still in emergency mode, the focus is changing. Increasingly, shelter materials and repair kits are also being provided to families, according to clear criteria, to help them start rebuilding their own shelters. Components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are also consulting with communities to identify their needs and their ability to help themselves.

At the same time, staff and volunteers are intent on reaching people in remote, high-altitude regions, such as Allai, Shangla and Kohistan, using trucks and helicopters.

The next stage of the operation will be to monitor and revisit families to check their status and to meet any outstanding needs.

 

Arzu Ozsoy
Arzu Ozsoy is International Federation information delegate in Pakistan.

 

Shelter for earthquake survivors

The ICRC delivered corrugated iron sheeting for 10,912 families affected by the earthquake in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The material is being used to build temporary shelters more suitable than tents. At the outset of its operations in the region, the ICRC realized that one of the greatest challenges faced by the stricken population was to survive the harsh winter. In December 2005, it distributed the corrugated iron sheeting, which is available on the local market and can be used to build shelters that protect from the cold.

According to Luc Soenen, ICRC water and habitat coordinator in Pakistan, families in the affected areas received shelter kits consisting of up to 12 corrugated iron sheets and 10 metres of plain sheeting used for joining. The ICRC also provided villagers with tools to build temporary shelters and repair damaged houses. Carpenters were sent in to assist families headed by widows or elderly people.

By 31 January the ICRC had delivered corrugated iron sheeting to 157 villages above the snowline in the Neelum and Jhelum valleys. In order to reach these remote areas, the ICRC used a fleet of nine helicopters that made 505 round trips from its logistics base in Abbottabad. Ten expatriate and local ICRC engineers were involved in the operations, which cost US$ 1.3 million, over a period of two months.

The relief efforts were carried out with the support of local community leaders, village heads, Pakistan Red Crescent Society members and army personnel, all of whom helped to identify the most vulnerable families in the villages.


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