Geneva, March 30, 2006
Information provided by ACT member Church World Service Pakistan/Afghanistan (CWS); the following is a summary of weekly information provided by CWS during March
The Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) has announced a comprehensive three-year plan in 11 development sectors with US$3.5 billion earmarked for a special focus on housing, health, education and livelihood in earthquake-affected areas. The ERRA chairman said that a Rs. 4.5 billion (US$75 million) livelihood support program will be launched in April to provide Rs. 3,000 (US$50) per month for six months to the most vulnerable families.
Various governments and international agencies will help reconstruct 408 earthquake-resistant educational institutions in the quake-hit areas of Azad Kashmir. Schools were especially hard-hit in the earthquake. Plans have also been finalized to build 99 hospitals in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and 116 in Azad Kashmir, which were also hard-hit.
Starting in April, the Pakistani government will start disbursements for housing reconstruction to 400,000 earthquake survivors in Azad Kashmir and NWFP. Each affected household has already been given Rs. 25,000 (US$418) as a first instalment against a destroyed house. The government has promised to provide Rs. 175,000 (US$2,900) for the reconstruction of each destroyed house. Recipients are required to reconstruct their houses in line with the officially approved designs for earthquake-resistant houses.
The Federal Relief Commissioner has said that quake-affected people were being encouraged to return to their homes but that there would be no deadline for the closure of relief camps. He added that the government was giving one month's ration, tents and bedding to people who are returning voluntarily. There are still an estimated 263,000 people living in camps.
According to the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Pakistan, massive landslides are expected in June and July, which may affect reconstruction efforts in Azad Kashmir. He said some relief efforts will be required after winter and that some survivors are likely to remain dependent on food assistance at least until the next harvest in September and October. He said the current priorities included mitigating the impact of cold weather and rain for the remaining winter period, improving sanitation to prevent the outbreak of diseases in the spring, and preparing for a voluntary and informed return strategy for the displaced families. He added that the situation remains difficult but is no longer critical. The rains and snow make it miserable, but not un-manageable (as reported in the Dawn newspaper).
Church World Service (CWS)-ACT response
The CWS psychosocial program team is facilitating the departure process of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from camps. Counseling is being provided to ensure that their return home is voluntary, informed and dignified. Earlier reports indicated that many camp residents were confused and hesitant about returning to their villages. They were concerned that once they returned to the mountains, conditions would worsen due to the constant threat of landslides and forecast rains. The army management of the Hassa tent village assured residents that relief items (such as tents, blankets and sheets, etc.) along with one month of food stocks would be provided to residents when they left the camp. At a meeting with the United tent village management, the CWS team was informed that the tent village will remain functional until April 30, giving residents more time to plan their resettlement.
A total of 128 families have left Shohal Najaf tent village and have moved back to their home villages, leaving 59 families (450 individuals) in the camp. Of those families remaining in the camp, 28 are waiting to resolve certain issues, and 31 will return home soon. The psychosocial team will support the people remaining in the camp in accordance with government policies.
A gathering of women living in the tent village was organized to help them overcome their fears and anxiety about their future. CWS assured them of its continued support and guidance in the future. A meeting was held with the male residents of the camp at which the closure of the camp was discussed.
The psychosocial team organized a drawing and story-writing competition for school children in the camp in which 91 students participated. Most drawings were of houses, which reflected how sensitive children are about getting back to normal. School bags and hygiene kits were also distributed to all participants. The team leader said at the competition that strong bonds have been created among the people during these challenging times.
The psychosocial team conducted a handicraft exhibition in collaboration with the women of Hassa tent village. The women presented embroidered items, stitched clothes, bed sheets and decorations, and prizes were awarded.
A group of visitors comprising representatives from the UN and the Office of Regional Recovery Commission met with the CWS team in the Shohal Najaf tent village to discuss the return and compensation process. It was shared in the meeting that landless people will also leave the camp and pitch their tents outside their home areas. The land revenue department will identify land for the pitching of these tents.
Health and hygiene program
The CWS health and hygiene team conducted Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Training at the Maira tent village which focused on the importance of maintaining personal and environmental hygiene. The team also visited schools to promote hygiene among children.
A training workshop was held from February 27 to March 1 for newly organized health committees and health and hygiene volunteers in Maidan tent village, Battagram. A meeting with adolescent girls was conducted in Maira tent village, Shangla, to encourage their participation in the health and hygiene promotion program. The team distributed 300 waste buckets, 205 lotas (pots for cleaning in the toilet) and 100 hygiene kits.
The team visited the Shohal Najaf tent village to inspect the latrines, bathrooms, large and small drainage systems and water points. As a result of CWS's hygiene promotion, camp residents are now actively participating in cleaning and maintaining the water and sanitation sites. The team distributed blankets and quilts for the health committee in Shohal Najaf tent village.
The team also met with the army management, the management of the basic health unit, the school management and family elders on an individual basis to follow up on their activities. The team participated in the health committee meeting and shared an update on the CWS projects in the camp. The discussion focused around the need for environmental cleaning and mobilization of resources in the recovery and reconstruction phase.
A meeting on health and hygiene was held with male representatives in Kund tent village. The team also distributed brooms and lotas (pots for cleaning in the toilet). Two sessions on health and hygiene were held to train women on the latest methods used for health and hygiene promotion. The team conducted Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Training for school children. A similar one-day training session was also held at Battagram.
An assessment was carried out in Kala Dhaka, district Mansehra to identify needs for water sanitation and hygiene projects.
Recovery assessment and monitoring (RAM) team
The RAM team held a meeting with the residents of the Maira tent village who expressed concerns about the camp's closure and problems that are likely to be faced during their rehabilitation. The community representatives shared their apprehensions about future prospects for income-generating activities and availability of wood for shelter and fuel. The RAM team also compiled village profiles in Garlat, Maria, Batera and Kund tent villages and household profiles in Shohal Najaf tent village.
Inauguration of training center at Bassian
The CWS Construction Trade Training Center (CTTC) in Bassian, Balakot Tehsil, was inaugurated during a ceremony on March 15. The center was established in collaboration with the Dosti Welfare Organization. The establishment of CTTC is phase one of the CWS and Dosti Rehabilitation and Reconstruction program, which will assist the earthquake-affected communities in Mansehra District. CTTC will provide basic training in masonry, electricity, plumbing and carpentry to young men. Another center will be established in Bisham, Shangla District.
Meetings and visitors
Recovery management workshop for union councils: The second in a series of workshops on recovery management for union councils was held in the Maira tent village of Tehsil Bisham March 7 to 9. The purpose of the workshop was to mobilize and involve local communities in the reconstruction phase and to help them develop a recovery plan for their union councils. Twenty elected representatives from the union councils of Allai, Battagram, Maira and Bisham attended.
At the March 22 meeting of the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, it was reported that fault lines have been identified in the affected areas and reconstruction has been stopped along all fault lines, and people will be asked to move.
CWS facilitated a one-day seminar on "Current Status & Future Planning" in Mansehra in which CWS and representatives from other organizations participated. Each team, along with the management team, had an opportunity to present its achievements, challenges and lessons learnt and to develop links within the CWS staff as well as with its partners. During the seminar all participants were able to plan activities for the coming months.
Two Cuban doctors visited the CWS CTTC center in Mansehra. They conducted medical checkups of the students and distributed medicines for scabies, fever and skin diseases. They also referred some students to the hospital for medical treatment.
For regular updates from the Pakistan office of ACT member CWS, visit www.cwspa.org/earthquake.
Sources: Reliefweb, Web sites of Geo TV, AAJ TV, Dawn, Reuters Television Network, Daily Time and the Nation; CWS field team reports and Pakistan Humanitarian Forum meeting minutes.
Information provided by the Academy for Disaster Management Education, Planning and Training (ADEPT) (created by the National Lutheran Health & Medical Board, a unit of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India [UELCI], which holds ACT membership)
The physical challenges that ADEPT's medical relief team continues to face are numerous. The higher reaches of the mountains in Indian-controlled Kashmir where it goes to serve villages are snow-clad, while the lower reaches are rain-bound. The rain, combined with the thaw, has caused slushy conditions in the lower reaches, with the risk of landslides and rockfalls. Traffic on the Srinagar-Uri national highway has been disrupted by landslides. Slush on the road makes for dangerous travelling conditions. The Border Road Task Force constantly tries to keep the road open, but the landslides and rockfalls pose a major threat to traffic. These conditions are not new to Kashmir, but the earthquake has made the mountainside very fragile, and aftershocks keep the slopes destabilized. Trucks and buses trying to rush through to avoid falling rocks and are then held up by the landslips. Heavily damaged vehicles by the roadside are constant reminders of the dangers of driving on the road. The situation changes almost by the hour. This has caused a slowdown and backlog in the movement of essential commodities to quake-affected places.
Only Kamalkote, among the quake-affected villages covered by ADEPT, is reachable due to the army's presence in the mountains. Communication is poor in the villages as no land lines exist. Mobile phones are operational only a few kilometers beyond Baramulla town. Villages are accessible from the main road only by single-person tracks cut in the snow by the villagers. These tracks are slushy and often difficult to negotiate.
Villages beyond the road have no piped water. The villagers melt snow for drinking water. Government health centers are open only for a short while, but villagers say that they do not have adequate medicines. Some local NGOs conduct health camps for roadside villages, with doctors attending once a week.
UELCI-ADEPT response (supported through the ACT appeal)
When visiting villages, ADEPT's medical relief team drives to the nearest roadhead, and then, moving by foot, plows through the slush to reach the village. In the 30 days ending March 15, the team treated more than 4,500 people in the villages of Dara Gutlean, Gingle, Dawaran, Batgram, Charunda, Bagrato, Lalpull, Dardkote, Isham, Gharkote, Kalan, Balai Camp, Namble, Paran Pillai, and Uri. This makes a total of 18,315 patients ADEPT has treated so far. The relief tent camp at Balai in Uri district, covered by the team, has been set up by the government. It comprises 255 families from Gharkote, Chakla, Singtung, Isham, Gawala, and Dardkote.
"Our team appears to be the only one providing medical relief to remote villages. We have been told that our team is the sole provider of medical assistance to at least five remote villages - Batgram, Charunda, Kamalkote, Gharkote, and Guhalan. It was the first ever medical team to reach Gharkote after the quake," says Dr. Gauthamadas, ADEPT director.
Gharkote, in Uri district, is in the highest reaches of the mountains, close to Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. Patients who are very sick are carried to the Uri health center on a person's back or on improvised stretchers made of charpoy (tape or light rope). Women in labor are carried down to deliver their babies. Pregnant women are identified at the camps and treated for nutritional deficiencies, anemia, infections, etc. A local midwife who attends to all pregnancies was given a brief training. Villagers and youth are also trained in first aid and to manage patients until the ADEPT team visits again. The team brings with them stocks of basic medicines. There are constant requests from the villagers for ADEPT to continue medical care and to train more youth as community health attendants.
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