Pakistan: Earthquake victims face a gloomy winter

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With the winter looming, the prospects are grim for thousands of survivors of the earthquakes in south-western Pakistan. The full extent of the devastation caused by the earthquakes is yet to be established. The ICRC is assessing needs and extending its support to victims.

The number of casualties is currently estimated at over 200 dead and between 500 and 1,000 wounded. With at least 4,000 homes destroyed by the earthquakes, thousands of people are left without shelter. Others, worried about aftershocks, are staying out in the cold. Many of the wounded evacuated to hospitals in Quetta for emergency treatment, for instance, braved the chilly temperatures and slept outside hospital buildings. Beds had to be placed outside the hospitals.

The figures above are bound to be revised as more details of the devastation emerge.

Offering shelter

According to ICRC teams on the ground, the problem of shelter will inevitably become more acute. The affected region is 2,000 - 2,500 metres above sea level and winter is looming. Although it has not started snowing yet, temperatures drop below 0°C at night. This is a major concern for people without shelter.

Most of the houses are made of mud, light wooden pole structures and vegetable fibre roofing. They are not solid enough to withstand powerful earthquakes. Between 80 and 90 per cent of the houses have collapsed or are extensively damaged.

People are camping outside for fear of fresh aftershocks. Those sheltering in tents would rather not stay there for too long. They are unwilling to move to camps as this would involve mixing with other families and people from other villages. A village may consist of one family or a few families.

The ICRC, Pakistani Red Crescent and many other organizations are distributing tents and blankets to survivors. So far the ICRC has distributed1,800 blankets and 300 stoves. It will expand this type of assistance as soon as stocks are replenished.

Providing medical care for the injured

The earthquakes devastated isolated villages in Pishin, Ziarat, and possibly Harnai districts. The epicentre was in Ziarat district. The nearest health care facilities are now in Quetta.

An ICRC surgical team based in Peshawar has arrived in Quetta. It is currently assessing the city's public and private hospitals to determine the number of wounded people who have already been able to reach hospital, or who are on their way there.

The team, which comprises ICRC and Pakistan Red Crescent personnel, is also assessing the capacity of several hospitals in the area in terms of drugs, stocks of surgical materials and skilled human resources.

An ICRC doctor has delivered emergency kits to the affected region. They include antibiotics, pain killers and treatment for skin infections.

Pooling efforts together

The ICRC is working closely with the Pakistan Red Crescent and coordinating its efforts with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The International Federation is also sending a support team to the region, including a disaster management expert, a health specialist and an information officer. The ICRC stands ready to replenish the Pakistani Red Crescent's stocks non-food items.