The survivors of the 29 October earthquake in Balochistan, Pakistan still await essential relief items. Although both the government and non-governmental organisations immediately began relief efforts, much-needed aid still has not reached many affected families. Balochistan, particularly the affected union councils of Ziarat, Pishin, and Zindra, is difficult to navigate geographically and the population is widespread and scattered.
The poor condition of the roadways also inhibits relief efforts and causes delays in reaching more remote areas.
ACT members, Church World Service (CWS) and Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), continued distribution of relief items throughout the past week and both organizations continue to participate in coordination meetings. CWS and NCA both emphasise the importance of winterized tents, blankets and warm clothes as the most urgently required items. Both report the need for transitional housing. According to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, at least 5,000 winterized tents are required immediately.
With each day that passes, the number of pneumonia and other respiratory infection cases increases because survivors continue to live outdoors. In one village of Pishin District, a local doctor reported that 50 percent of the people in his village suffer from pneumonia. The temperatures drop to -5°C at night and will soon be as low as -15°C. Many survivors have not received tents, but even those who received non-winterised tents remain at risk of illness. Due to the freezing temperatures, reconstruction of houses is impossible until April. Therefore, those affected require transitional housing in order to make it through the winter because even winterized tents cannot provide sufficient protection in the harshest winter months.
Women and children are at a greater risk for illness and display more significant signs of depression and trauma. The lack of shelter is emotionally and physically traumatizing, particularly for women. Women, as is the custom, maintain â€œpurdhaâ€ and, therefore, only use latrines within their homes. Without this privacy, many women now refrain from going to the toilet except before dawn or in the late night hours. In some areas, women continue to use the indoor washrooms of damaged houses that could collapse at any moment. Physically, many women have developed digestive infections and constipation.
Although a decent network of medical services is available in the affected areas, several medical concerns exist. In most areas, medicines are available. however, in some areas survivors have received medications without proper instructions. Most people are illiterate and could potentially take fatal doses because proper instructions were not provided. A doctor in Pishin reported that there are medications for pneumonia, but insufficient amounts of medicine for insect bites, an increasing problem because people continue to sleep outdoors. Perhaps the most prevalent issue is the lack of psychiatrists, especially females, because a significant number of post-traumatic stress disorder cases are observed in all affected areas. A lack of trained gynecologists also presents a challenge for expectant mothers.
Environmental concerns also exist in the affected areas. Reports of damage to the water systems vary. In some cases, communities report that an increase in water availability in the underground water systems occurred, while in other areas, a decrease occurred. The most significant risk to people in the water system is its contamination. Survivors who drink the contaminated water and develop diarrhea and other infections. Also, Balochistan is home to thousands of Juniper trees. Despite recent efforts of environmentalists to raise awareness about the value of these trees, survivors, out of desperation, will begin to cut the trees down for firewood. Also, the Juniper trees play a vital role in the ecosystem of the area as they prevent landslides and help maintain the underground water sources.
ACT member activities
CWS distributed winterised tents and blankets in various villages of the three affected areas of Zindra, Kawas, and Kech. Over the past week, the team distributed a total of 496 winterized tents and 1,984 blankets. The team also reported looting of 15 tents and 35 blankets by a local community in Ziarat. The action was out of desperation for winterised tents. After negotiations with the local community, the looters agreed to return the items. In another report from the team, one survivor offered to barter eight non-winterised tents for one CWS winterised tent. These actions demonstrate how desperate people are to protect their families from the severe winter weather. The team plans to distribute another 200 winterised tents and 800 blankets in Khanozai and Balozai (Pishin), an area from which people do not migrate during winter, the infrastructure is badly damaged, and people have yet to receive aid.
Under NCA's supervision, its local partner, Taraqee Foundation (TF), distributed relief items in Torshor and Sharki Kas (Hernai District), Bostan (Pishin District) and Ahmedoon Kach (Ziarat District). In total, NCA distributed 177 tents, 200 quilts and 53 stoves.
Both CWS and NCA are applying Sphere standards in their response and are actively attending various coordination meetings with the government and other non-governmental organisations, based in the provincial capital, Quetta.
Support from the ACT Rapid Response Fund (RRF) of US$60,405 has been sent to CWS and NCA, and a full ACT appeal is expected in the near future.
Church World Service (CWS) Pakistan/Afghanistan
Takeshi Komino (email@example.com)
Saadia Yaqoob (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Norwegian Church Aid (NCA)
Bushra Ghazanfar (email@example.com)
Rubina Ali (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tomm Kristiansen, Communications Officer (office: +41 22 791 6039 / mobile: +41 79 358 3171 / email@example.com)
Sidney Traynham, Assistant Communications Officer (office: +41 22 791 6711 / mobile: +41 79 681 1868 / firstname.lastname@example.org)