A Sturdy Shelter, a Water Tap and a New Start for Quake Families in Pakistan
But Maqsooda lost much more than her home to the disaster—she also lost her husband. She and her five children were out gathering water when the tremors hit, but her husband was at home, where he was killed by falling masonry. He was the family’s sole breadwinner, so Maqsooda is now dependent on her brother Muhammed Asif. Both their families now live in the shelter, provided by the International Rescue Committee as a temporary home while they prepare to rebuild.
The quake-resistant shelter has four external walls – each just over 3 feet high – which have been built from salvaged stones and plastered with mud to make them sturdy. The walls are topped by two layers of strong plastic sheeting on a wooden frame, which can be filled with insulation when the weather turns colder. The whole structure is finished off by a roof of corrugated galvanized iron.
Just outside Maqsooda’s new door is a tap the IRC rigged so that she can get water directly from a local spring. “A regular supply of clean water is essential for good health,” says environmental health officer Abbas Khan, “so the IRC has constructed five new water supply systems in Muzaffrabad and rebuilt many of the original pipes and tanks that were damaged by the quake. We want to make sure that people have easy access to water and that they don’t pollute the original sources.”
Community members worked alongside IRC staff, clearing debris and constructing temporary homes and concrete water tanks. Their joint efforts have ensured that clean water now reaches more than 19,000 people in the surrounding area and that 3,000 homeless families across the entire quake zone have a place to live.
“I’m very happy with IRC’s help to us,” says Maqsooda, “and the temporary shelter is much better than the tents we were having to manage with before. But if I’m honest, it can’t compare to my old house.”
Both families are looking forward to rebuilding. Maqsooda’s brother Muhammed has given up his job as a hotel waiter in Islamabad – where he worked while his elderly father helped look after his family – to return home and begin the reconstruction process.
“I had to be here to see that my sister and her family are settled in,” says Muhammed. “And I also wanted to ensure that we receive the money from the government that we were owed as compensation for our destroyed houses. Between us, our families lost four houses in the earthquake, and if you are not around when the payments are made, then you are in real danger of missing out on what you are owed.”
Muhammed admits it’s a worrying time, as everyone is nervous about when and how they will get their money to start rebuilding. “It’s not easy living here now,” he says. “We have nothing left and I’m having to take care of two families together. In the future, I will probably have to stay here and try and open a small shop to support us. But honestly, I can’t think that far ahead now.”
And although the weather is fine now for these villages high in the mountains, the next cold winter is only six months away.