Pakistan: Life after the earthquake - Two stories of young women
Six months on, the emergency relief phase is almost over and focus is shifting towards rebuilding the shattered region. Almost all the official camps have been closed, but some people are still waiting to return to their homes, as many roads to the more remote villages are impassable. The Government has planned grants to help people reconstruct their houses. The money is being paid in 3 installments; the first one has already been paid and the assessment for the second payment is ongoing.
Ockenden's contribution to the relief phase
Using the expertise of its Pakistan based teams, Ockenden decided to help children return to seven schools in Garhi Habibullah, in the district of Mansehra. In the initial campaign, this project set up temporary schools in tents at seven different locations to be managed by the local communities. Thirty-eight teachers (31 women and seven men) have been employed and are now educating 853 primary age children, including 450 girls.
In addition, Ockenden also helped about 6,000 children to return to 50 remote government primary schools in four tehsils (equivalent to an English Borough) of Mansehra. Ockenden provided tents, stationery, mats, blackboards and school bags to all 50 government-supported schools. Now the teams are busy working to get as many children as possible to school whilst establishing and strengthening the school management committees and teachers training in all the schools.
Support to private schools will be expanded by up to 20 semi-permanent earthquake resistant schools, and the community will be further involved in their day-to-day management. Support to 50 government schools will be extended up to 100 schools in the coming months.
Education is the only asset that helped my family to survive
Somia is working as a social organizer with Ockenden International in Garhi Habibullah. She comes every day from Balakot, which is one of the most severely affected areas in the district of Mansehra. According to the media this city has to be shifted as it is in the red zone and the government has already got plans to provide land to people affected by the earthquake so that they can build houses. This land is in Bisian in the same district as Balakot.
Somia comes from a family that was rich, before the earthquake, with lots of property, shops and a printing press. They were living in a big house with two of her uncles as neighbours. Each of the uncles--families were killed when their houses collapsed. The children who survived were divided between the relatives living in different parts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The remaining members of Somia's immediate family have fixed a tent on the rubble of her house. Her house collapsed and then burnt, as they had the fire on for cooking in the kitchen when the jolt was felt.
Somia said that she had just started working as a teacher in a private school near her house a few months ago and was busy teaching the class when the earthquake shook Balakot. The school collapsed, killing a number of students and injuring others. She stayed under the collapsed roof of the classroom with many other students until evening and was flown by helicopter to Abbotobad where she received treatment for her injuries. It took weeks before the survivors of her family finally met up with her in an official camp in Mansehra. Somia described that time as being difficult for everyone.
Somia tells with tears in her eyes that as a child she remembered her parents having arguments about educating girls. Her father was always of the opinion not to educate girls, despite her mother having been educated in Peshawar and working as a teacher before she married her father and moved to Balakot. Her mother, however, was very aware of the importance of education and succeeded at providing Somia with the opportunity to get an education. Today, Somia believes that it is only because of the education her mother argued for that she could get the job with Ockenden that pays enough to feed her family, there is no other source of income for my family except my salary. Both of my parents have still not recovered physically and psychologically. It is tough, I understand, but my job keeps me busy and I forget about my troubles during the day - but when I go home, it feels as if it was just today that we lost two of our brothers and two of our uncles and their families. After coming back from the official camp in Mansehra in March, Somia and her family fixed their tent on the rubble of her collapsed and burnt house. She is not sure when her family will be able to reconstruct their house as her father, the only male left in the family, has barely recovered from his leg injury leaving him very weak and suffering from trauma, winter in the tents was harsh and summer will be even harder, but there is no other option.
We were told that we would not be forced to leave the camp but that facilities would no longer be provided
Zubaida, 17 years old, is very happy to see the team from Ockenden in their area. She hopes Ockenden will establish a school in her village so that she can send her younger sister and three brothers to the school for as long as they remain in that area. This family comes from Kaghan Valley and the road to their village is still closed. Her father had been a schoolteacher in his village, which has not been reachable since 8 October. The children lost their mother, a brother and a grandmother when their house collapsed during October's earthquake. The rest, injured and survivors, were flown from the valley by an army helicopter to the hospital in Abbotobad and later shifted to Bisian camp in the district of Mansehra. ?n the camp we received cooked food and had access to basic facilities, including health and education,--says Zubaida. The first few weeks were spent taking care of the sick and injured and mourning dead family members, however, they soon found that they had a lot of friends around them in the same camp - all had similar stories to share. Despite the very cold winter they managed to adjust to life in the camp.
At the beginning of March they received news that the camps were being closed down and that they would have to go back to their villages. People had mixed feelings about starting a new life in their own village and others thought that little or no support would be available at their original homes, started packing. we were sad, as it was not clear what to do because the road to our village was still closed. The whole range of mountains had fallen down. We were told that we would not be forced to leave the camp but that facilities would no longer be provided. Father also questioned how he could leave the children in a tent without having neighbours around,--explained Zubaida. It was then that one of the families from Garhi Habibullah offered Zubaida and her family a place to fix their tent in their village, until the road back to their village was cleared up.
They moved to Garhi Habibullah with a tent, 20 KG of wheat flour and 20 KG of rice. Their food supply was running low and their father was left worrying about how they would survive from one day to the next. He could not go to find work and leave them alone. Zubaida's youngest brother is 15 years old, he is big enough to help his father but he has not been himself since the earthquake struck. Even though he was not physically severely injured he is clearly suffering great trauma. Zubaida now just prays that her family can go back to their village where they know a lot of people and do not have to fear being alone.