Early Arrival of Winter
Following the heavy snowfall in the last week of November there are reports of increasing cases of pneumonia, intestinal and acute respiratory tract infections in the earthquake affected areas, plus disputed reports of the first fatalities as a result of hypothermia. It is widely accepted that up to 90% of the tents provided to the homeless are inadequate to meet the rigours of winter occupancy. Hence the urgent need to provide more robust winter shelters, particularly for those still living above 5,000 feet. Poor visibility has hampered helicopter operations (with current loading allocations of 70% food:30% shelters), whilst some roads have been closed and other declared unsafe, thus slowing the pace of relief and shelter distribution at a critical juncture. Happily, the mooted re-location of the Army units away from the lower regions to concentrate exclusively on higher areas has been rescinded; the continuing presence of this overall control is fundamental and invaluable at the present time and the transfer of responsibility to municipal (tehsil) and civil institutions should be undertaken as an orderly and evolutionary weaning process conducted over an appropriate period.
With pledges of $5.2bn made at the Islamabad Donors' Conference taking time to translate into reality, the shortage of funds is being felt at all levels. Moreover, the relevance of this publicised process seems at times far removed from the actualities on the ground. The UN have stated that without continued financial support their operations will have to be phased down by mid-winter. At the same time smaller NGOs (arguably engaged on much of the front-line activity), both external and national are suffering from the absence of financing; with existing resources exhausted, programmes are in some cases having to be terminated prematurely and unfulfilled. The varied, time-consuming and cumbersome processes adopted by many donors are revealing themselves to be ill-suited to the dynamics of this fast moving 'winter race' situation.
ONGOING ACTIVITIES -- PATTAN DEVELOPMENT ORGANISATION
Our tented camp at Balakot continues to serve 200 displaced victims and in close coordination with the local Army authorities who are extending every support, efforts are continuing to provide the best winter-care possible.
The first 100 Pattan-shelters were successfully delivered on 25 Nov 05 to the mountain community of Arban (7,000 feet and above, 5km from Balakot). The village elders immediately dedicated three of these shelters for use as a temporary replacement for the razed children's school.
Distribution of a second batch of 90 Pattan-shelter kits was made on 5/6 Dec 05 to the villagers of Patlung 2 (across the Kaghan Valley from Arban). Army and IOM offers of assistance with local transportation on the approach tracks were much appreciated. A further 10 shelters were allocated to the Pattan tented camp.
In grateful partnership with Mercy Malaysia this coordinated outreach programme of shelter distribution will continue in mid-December with supply of 150 kits, mattresses and quilts to the communities of Jalora and Patlung 1, with a top-up for Arban/Jabi, and the inclusion of some stoves if possible.
The necessary doubling of this programme to our adopted villages is dependent on the receipt of further donor funding, and there are strong grounds for optimism in this respect.
Pattan's three-project interventions under the heading of 'first steps on the road to normality' (Women's Handicrafts; Community Sports and Recreational Activities; Children's Educational Support Programme) continue to be pursued with success in our tented camp. Extension of these well received participatory initiatives to our adopted villages is subject to success in the search for donors.
THE WAY AHEAD
Working closely on the ground with Mercy Malaysia to implement further planned shelter distribution activities in Balakot and to explore areas for continuing partnership.
Extension of the Pattan shelter activities to include heating (in accordance with the Shelter Cluster Technical Guidelines) and bedding, these being vital integral strands in the winter survival strategy for homeless beneficiaries.
Investigation of second line development activities in partnership with Geneva Global, one possibility being provision of support for Female Headed Households, (i.e. recently bereaved widows) in the form of registration of the vulnerable (to include the pregnant, and also elderly females), to be followed by participatory assistance programmes such as counseling, financial advice, formation of community coalitions etc. This programme to be led and staffed entirely by females, both in respect of the core Pattan Development Organisation representation and locally engaged community health and welfare workers.
The possibility of a Cultural Preservation Programme during the recuperation phase in the affected region, viz identification and documentation of endangered traditional skills and activities, including the rich heritage in handicrafts and in folk music and dance, followed by interventions to rectify, protect and promote.
Identification of further major longer term participatory disaster response strategies for implementation (for example, the possibility of working with and for disaster disabled children) as part of the evolutionary rehabilitation process in the affected zone, maintaining compatibility with the finite resources, aims and strengths of the Pattan Development Organisation.
(John M. Lane)
Disaster Management Coordinator