IRC Medical Teams Work to Prevent a New Wave of Deaths in Quake-Ravaged Pakistan
Babo Madassar stood at the entrance to the damaged school room holding his crying 6-month-old daughter and asked pleadingly if she was going to die. After an examination by a doctor, the answer was no.
She is suffering from a respiratory tract infection, diarrhea and a skin infection, says Dr. Sediq, a doctor from the International Rescue Committee. His team is working out of usable but damaged buildings and tents in this remote village two hours north of Abbottabad.
After the exam, the physician wrote out a prescription on a small, blue scrap of paper and handed it to Madassar, who thanked him and left to pick up his daughter's medicine.
Dr. Sediq says most of the 50 men he examined suffered from similar conditions, We saw mostly upper and lower respiratory infections because these people are sleeping out in the cold because they're afraid to go inside their homes. They are afraid of more earthquakes.
Nearby, in a separate tent for women, Daksha Brahmbhatt, a registered nurse with the IRC, says out of the 83 women and children she saw, most suffered from the same conditions as the men.
Officials fear a second catastrophe is in the making as winter rapidly approaches the mountainous zone affected by the quake. Billions of dollars are still needed to feed and shelter people are sleeping outdoors in makeshift accommodations.
See, we make tents from crops in our fields, says Sadiq Hussain Shah, pointing to a pile of sticks and branches covered with a piece of torn plastic in the middle of a cornfield. We need proper tents, he says shaking his head at the obvious inadequacy. Snow is expected to start falling around Singul Kot within weeks.
Health officials say they fear a new wave of deaths from hypothermia, pneumonia and infections if people do not receive aid soon.
Officially, about 3 million people have been injured and left homeless by the October 8th quake but thousands more remain uncounted in remote villages similar to Singul Kot. The region is dotted with hamlets and villages scattered among the narrow valleys and pine forests. Many roads remain blocked by landslides and because of the steep terrain, there are few places for relief helicopters to land.
Although international relief agencies are working in the affected area, the IRC health team has been the first to bring medical care to this village nestled on a hillside amid terraced fields of corn and wheat.
Across the valley in the village of Khakhol, where another IRC medical team has set up a tent, women converge from all directions seeking care. Outside the tent, Mohammad Rafiq, the village teacher, smiles, I am very happy the IRC has come. There are many patients like pregnant women that need help.
Doctors from the organization go out daily to help quake survivors and others whose medical needs cannot be met because of damaged or destroyed hospitals and clinics in the region.
Recovery from the earthquake will be slow in these remote parts of the country. Although Khakol suffered no loss of life during the quake, Rafiq says many people are still afraid to go indoors or send their children to school, which is supposed to open soon.