Pakistan: Warm shelter for earthquake victims in Baluchistan

By Mubashir Fida, IFRC information officer in Ziarat

The severe cold and dry winter winds that blow over Baluchistan are a recurring phenomenon, and those who call the region home are used to them.

However, this year has been different. With many homes reduced to rubble after the earthquake in late October, people in Ziarat and Pishin have been forced to stay in tents while the mercury dipped to a cruel minus 6 degrees Celsius during the night.

Responding to the harsh situation, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has provided warm emergency shelters to 3,600 households, with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Four hundred more emergency shelters will be distributed to fill the gap for other vulnerable groups including widows, the elderly and the disabled.

Emergency shelter packages have been distributed by PRCS and IFRC teams to many affected families in the Ziarat and Pishin districts, reaching them in time for full blown winter to set in. Each package consists of sheets of corrugated galvanized iron, a shelter repair kit, bamboo and timber poles, and tarpaulin sheets.

The PRCS has provided more than 2000 warm shelters to additional affected families, supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Teamwork and capability

"Teamwork and the vastly improved disaster response capacity of the PRCS, plus the technical simplicity of the shelter made a huge difference," said Azmat Ulla, IFRC head of delegation in Pakistan, reflecting on increased capability since the 2005 earthquake. Beaming with satisfaction, he thanked all of the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies that supported the IFRC appeal as well as the affected communities who played active roles in the operation.

"Job well done," shared PRCS Secretary General Ilyas Khan, equally satisfied, especially with the feedback he received from the beneficiaries praising the dedication of the volunteers. "One of the people we served commented that 'they don't seem to get tired,'" said Khan. "Our volunteers' humanitarian service has been exemplary."

Ted Itani, IFRC operations coordinator, attributed the success of the operation, the biggest emergency shelter operation in Balochistan, to outstanding communication with the beneficiaries and treating them "as partners rather than helpless victims."

Keeping the promise

"We have kept our promise to the people," says Sabir Durrani, PRCS Balochistan branch secretary, adding, "Once again we have lived up to our commitment to help save and improve the lives of the most vulnerable."

"It's very cold here, but, ironically, we are enjoying our work," says Muhammad Dawood. He adds that since the first day of the disaster, he has been keen to help the affected people: "My difficult work satisfies me, as I am here for a cause; there is no service greater than helping people in need. This has been one of the most memorable times of my life"

Shield from the cold

Abdul Raziq, 42, a resident of Ziarat, has suffered from pneumonia along with his eight-year old daughter and a three-year old son. He is thankful to the PRCS for giving him materials to erect a warm shelter. "I was living in a tent and my children were getting sick, but now I have what I need to make a warm shelter. This will help me shield my family from the bitter cold," he says.

Raziq also elaborated on the usefulness of the construction materials. "In the spring, I will use the CGI's as roofing material when I reconstruct my house, this will definitely bring down the cost of construction as this material is very expensive for me to afford.

Contributions to the IFRC appeal for emergency shelter and to the PRCS relief operation were received from Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Iran, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States. Additional contributions were made by the Danish, German, and Swiss governments.