IRC Emergency Relief Experts Assist Earthquake Survivors in Remote Communities
The International Rescue Committee is continuing to deploy teams of emergency relief experts to assist earthquake survivors in devastated areas of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province still being shaken by periodic aftershocks.
IRC teams that arrived in the province today will help expand relief to remote communities virtually cut off from aid since the October 8 quake and relieve colleagues who have been providing tireless assistance over the past week many of whom are also dealing with the loss of their own friends and family members to the disaster. The arriving staff members include food distribution specialists, psychosocial counselors and a protection team that will assess the needs of the most vulnerable members of these communities, including women and children. A pool of former IRC staff members is on standby to respond rapidly if needed.
IRC doctors, paramedics and counselors continue to care for injured and traumatized survivors. Last night, the medical and counseling teams in Abbottabad volunteered at the Ayub Hospital, bandaging and dressing wounds and providing emotional support to survivors. IRC teams are continuing to deliver emergency supplies, including hundreds of sleeping bags and quilts bound for the hard-hit districts of Abbottabad and Manshera.
Aid Arrives in Isolated Communities
In Oghi, a remote and heavily damaged village that has seen little aid since the quake, IRC staff members are distributing food and other emergency supplies to survivors many of whom require medical attention. They recommended that a medical unit be deployed to the area as soon as possible, along with shelter supplies. Last night most of the survivors were in the open field piling on clothes to protect themselves from the drop in temperature, says Rehman Ullah, the IRC's team leader for Abbottabad and Manshera. More shelter is needed immediately to ensure that survivors do not die from the cold. Another IRC relief team is headed for Patankalan (called Patan by many locals), a neighboring village reachable only by winding roads.
Although most communication from Shangla, one of the most remote and underserved districts, has been disrupted for two days, the team responding there was able to reach colleagues in Peshawar to report that the local hospital was so damaged by the quake that most of the patients are being treated outside. There is no shelter and the temperatures are becoming colder every day as winter approaches. Although more aid has started to reach the area in recent days, tents are in short supply. We have been distributing blankets and quilts today and have made a request for 5,000 tents, says Shangla team leader Abur Rehman.
A Village Mourns
IRC teams that arrived in Galaat, near Balakot, today found some relief efforts underway and saw that survivors had enough donated food. But they were concerned about the inadequate sanitation facilities and sent for hygiene kits to help cut the risk of infectious disease. IRC doctors and paramedics set up a medical camp in the lower areas of the village while a psychosocial counseling team decided to hike up to assist the women and children living on the higher slopes.
The counselors reported that some of the women were still making arrangements for funerals and seemed to be overwhelmed by grief. Many of the women were not crying or expressing their emotions but were in a state of shock, says Laila Khan, who leads the IRC's psychosocial response. Some of the young girls who had lost their mothers told us that they thought they were dreaming and would soon wake up to find their mothers at home safe and sound. The counselors created group discussions for the women and children to help them release their emotions and encouraged the mothers to talk about and manage their grief so that they are able to care for the children who survived.
IRC staff members say that with so little of the village left standing, many of Galaat's surviving residents have decided that nothing is left for them there and have been arranging for public transportation to take them to the town of Manshera, where they hope to rebuild their lives.
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