Earthquake Victims Freeze in Pakistan
The worst earthquake in decades killed 87,000 people in Pakistan, and
left 50,000 severely injured. What's more devastating is that 3 million
people lost their homes in 2,775 villages. A half million people are
utterly without shelter as winter approaches.
The UN Flash Appeal sought $550 million but a month after the disaster,
donors have met only 15 percent of its appeal. Contributors are
understandably disaster weary. They gave generously to the Tsunami
victims. Months later U.S. donors unstintingly poured out $2 billion to
However, landslides have blocked roads isolating Pakistani villages
perched high on distant mountain ranges or deep in remote valleys
cutting off hundreds of thousands from any relief. Area hospitals,
schools and government buildings were destroyed along with homes.
Even in Muzaffarabad, the destroyed capital of Pakistani Kashmir, many
survivors do not have tents. Tariq Eqbal, an engineer who lived in a
wealthy area of the city that is now a tangle of devastation, sleeps
outside next to the ruins of his house. He says, "We've no tent and
there's not enough drinking water. We have to travel 5 kilometers to a
mountain spring for water."
However, the worst situations are high in the mountains, where
temperatures are already far below freezing. The Pakistani government is
creating a number of tent cities in the warmer valleys. However, many
want to remain behind. A man named Atiqullah, is quoted by The
Washington Post, as being afraid to leave his makeshift shelter of
plastic and wood, though snows will soon come in drifts as tall as a
Why? He is not willing to trade his family's self-reliant life with his
cattle for a future with destitute refugees. "I will stay here with my
cattle. I will die here," he says.
There are 200,000 people like Atiqullah clinging to hillsides with
little more than hope and dignity. They deserve help as much as those
who go to tent cities.
What are the strategies of major relief organizations?
Catholic Relief Services (800 736-3467)) secured 8,000 tents and is
using local materials to create a more permanent homes for people with
plastic tubing that makes a barrel vault winterized shelter covered by a
plastic tarp, which is easy for a family to build. Another version uses
wooden or steel frames, plus local stone or brick for walls. These cost
$350 and $500 respectively. Catholic Relief's goal is to serve 75,000
people, at a cost of $10 million - $15 million.
World Vision (88-56-CHILD) has 120 staffers providing relief that has
included distributing 42,000 tons of food and 10,000 tents. However,
there is a worldwide shortage of winterized tents. Therefore, World
Vision is also creating more permanent homes with a steel arc of 20-foot
pipes to form a tunnel and corrugated iron roofing. The ends of these
tunnel homes are covered with quilted canvas and a small stove installed
with a stove pipe.
World Vision is also creating large shelters for child-friendly spaces
to bring school children in from the cold, offering their parents an
opportunity to build housing from the rubble. The children are fed,
provided supervised play and trauma counseling. Three shelters have
been built so far and 20 more are planned if World Vision is able to
raise the $15 million it seeks.
No organization is doing more than the Red Cross and its international
affiliates, the International Committee of the Red Cross, which works
with the Red Crescent, a Muslim counterpart. It has already helped
50,000 people and aims to reach 200,000, most of whom will be served in
their own villages, preventing the need for them to leave their
ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger visited Pakistan last week and
reported that Pakistan will be the agency's second biggest operation
after Sudan. It has deployed seven helicopters, soon to be increased to
ten, which carry relief supplies to remote areas, and then bring the
wounded back for care in a 120-bed field hospital it built on a
Muzaffarabad soccer field.
Kellenberger was particularly concerned about the number of people who
are losing limbs, and pledged to create a specialized orthopedic clinic
to reconstruct hands and feet crushed by falling roofs and to aid
amputees. To contribute, call 800 HELP NOW.
Without major infusions of relief, there could be more deaths this
winter from the cold and from diseases such as cholera in poorly
sanitized tent cities than were caused by the earthquake.
As Paul wrote to the Galatians, "Let us not become weary in doing good."
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