IRC Teams Providing Aid to Thousands of Quake Surviors in Outlying Villages
Programs run by the International Rescue Committee continue to make progress in providing aid to thousands of people affected by the massive earthquake that struck northern Pakistan on October 8th.
The IRC's health, water and sanitation and distribution programs are providing important services to some of the outlying villages and hamlets that dot the Himalayan region.
Tens of thousands remain homeless as winter snows begin to fall at the higher elevations. Officials are concerned that without proper care and shelter, the death toll from the quake will continue to rise due to illnesses and exposure during the coming weeks.
Dr. Tila Khan, the health coordinator based in the IRC's Peshawar office, says there are no serious health problems among the quake survivors at this time, but the lack of shelter will cause problems later on.
We have seen 1,600 patients and most of those are suffering from chest infections. Two-hundred thirty-nine of those were injuries, he says.
The organization has two mobile health teams, which include both national and international staff, working in the field daily to provide clinical services and much needed medicines to survivors. In addition, medical assessment teams are out evaluating local hospitals and clinics, many of which were damaged or destroyed by the quake.
Because of the damaged local health infrastructure, the IRC will be concentrating on the long-term needs of those affected, something many non-government organizations are neglecting.
Lots of NGOs came in for a short time, then they left, says Rick Brennan, health advisor for the IRC's Emergency Response Team.
In order to fill the gap in local health care in a more permanent way, the IRC will erect a large medical tent on the Chattal Plain in the heart of the devastated zone. The tent will serve as a primary-care facility for the more than 50,000 residents in the area.
Around the town of Balakot, which has been leveled by the quake, IRC water and sanitation work continues to bring water to survivors. By repairing some of the damaged water pipes and reservoirs, the teams have been able restart the flow of water from a number of existing natural springs - and some created by the tremor - that pour from the surrounding mountains.
A relief supply flight is scheduled to arrive with 10,000 portable plastic containers that will be distributed to residents in Balakot and the surrounding areas. The containers will aid in the transportation of water.
To further assist residents, the IRC has been distributing about 20 kinds of food and non-food items, says Engineer Rehman of the organization's distribution program. The items include blankets, quilts, flashlights, sleeping bags, high-energy biscuits, water, dates, milk and cooking pots, he says.
The distribution has taken place in three of the hardest hit districts, which include Manshera, Abbottabad and Balakot.
Although distribution of the items has been successful, security in some areas has been a problem as people desperate for relief scramble for the aid.
Two vehicles were looted after the staff became overwhelmed, says Rehman. Local leaders are being contacted, along with police and the (Pakistan) army, to help with security and the targeting of people in need.
In this highly-conservative region where men dominate most aspects of life, the needs of women are being taken into account by the IRC's protection team. Assessments made in the field include the needs of both genders.
Although a large portion of the more than 40,000 deaths from the quake were children and women, thousands of men were also killed leaving many women to fend for themselves.
Local traditions dictate that women must be accompanied by a male relative in order to conduct business in public places, which includes going to pick up relief supplies from distribution points.
Because the men are the ones out seeking relief, says Irada Gautam, a protection consultant for the IRC, many women don't know where to go.
Our main concern is distribution. If they don't have husbands they're not going to receive enough aid, worries Gautam as she plans a women's outreach program.