IRC Delivers Emergency Aid to Disaster-stricken Northern Pakistan
The IRC has launched an emergency relief operation in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, following weeks of torrential rains, avalanches, flooding and severe snowstorms that have claimed an estimated 700 lives in the Frontier Province and Baluchistan.
Among the first to respond, IRC staff members delivered critical aid to over 1,400 affected families in the Upper Dir and Kohistan districts. Another 400 families are to receive relief items in the Lower Dir district this week. The aid packages include wheat flour, oil, sugar, salt, as well as matches, blankets and clothes.
“We have also provided materials to erect emergency shelter for those who have become homeless,” says the IRC’s country director Mustafa Elkanzi. “These supplies include steel guarders, wheelbarrows, plastic buckets, pickaxes and spades.”
More than 13,000 houses are reportedly destroyed and another 60,000 badly damaged across 10 disaster-impacted districts in North-West Frontier Province. More than 70 percent of roads have been cut off by snow masses, leaving over 140,000 people without access to food, medicines and fuel. Scores of people are believed to be buried under rock, mud, snow and debris.
Elkanzi says the treacherous road conditions have made delivery of supplies a challenge. “Bringing the goods to the people in need has been difficult and helicopters and in some cases donkeys had to be used.”
The storms, which have prompted the government to declare several areas as disaster zones, have also heavily affected the southwestern province of Baluchistan.
“The affected communities in the two provinces are among the poorest and most vulnerable in Pakistan and they have shared their modest resources for over two and half decades with more than three million Afghan refugees,” notes Elkanzi.
He says the disaster comes at a time when most of the humanitarian organizations with the capacity to respond have moved to Afghanistan following the mass repatriation of refugees in 2002. Non-governmental organizations with continuing programs in Pakistan, such as the IRC, have tried to meet the needs of the affected population amid rapidly shrinking resources.
“In order to quickly deliver supplies to those most in need, we used contingency stock, construction materials recovered during the recent closing down of some of the refugee camps, and personal contributions by staff members,” says Elkanzi.
The IRC will soon be partnering with the World Food Programme to distribute large quantities of food to people stranded by the disaster.