©Olav A. Saltbones / Norwegian
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.
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
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
Shelter for earthquake
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.