Friday November 4, 2005
The dire situation facing survivors of the Pakistan earthquake has forced the International Red Cross to start airlifting special relief teams into isolated villages in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan to carry out rapid aid distribution and assessment missions.
Over the next month, four 'crack' relief teams - three made up of Red Cross Red Crescent aid workers and one team from the International Organisation for Migration - will be transported by UN helicopters to villages inaccessible by road in a joint effort to bring vital assistance to remote regions before they are totally cut off by winter weather.
'Two of these teams are already on the ground in remote villages in the Khagan valley, outside of Balakot,' explained Robert Tickner, CEO of Australian Red Cross. 'As a result of their immediate assessments, community tents, tarpaulins, blankets and other items have been mobilised and will very soon be distributed to 300 families.'
According to Mr Tickner, this seemingly extreme measure is indicative of the unprecedented logistical challenges faced by aid organisations in Pakistan, as they endeavour to reach affected populations before winter sets in.
'Many of the severely affected areas are located high in the Himalayas - the world's second highest mountain range. 'Traditional' methods of distributing supplies have to be supplemented as some roads have been simply wiped out, whilst those that are passable are susceptible to landslides because of frequent aftershocks,' said Mr Tickner.
'However, these are challenges that must be met and are being met.'
The teams are self-sufficient and remain for a couple of days to collect information and provide aid, communicating daily with their bases to coordinate appropriate aid delivery.
Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers are using any and all means available to reach those affected by the quake. Along with helicopters and the ubiquitous truck, teams in some regions are using mules to carry aid into particularly inhospitable areas.
Teams of Pakistan Red Crescent medics have been hiking into some villages, a gruelling yet effective tactic that has enabled them to provide first aid to about 20,000 people.
So far Red Cross Red Crescent has distributed 11,000 winterised tents, 86,500 blankets and 11,500 tarpaulins in Balakot, Baribhabibulla, Batagram and in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. However, the revised global appeal of the International Red Cross for $160 million is still only 37 per cent met.
'The response of the Australian public, the government and corporations has been significant - so far we have received some $6.7 million. But there is so much more that needs to be done. Red Cross and other organisations are working hard to help those in need, but that is only possible with continued public support,' concluded Mr Tickner.
To donate to the Asia Earthquake Appeal:
- Visit www.redcross.org.au to make a secure online donation
- Call 1800 811 700 toll free
- Send a cheque to GPO Box 9949 marked 'Asia Earthquake Appeal' in your capital city
Funds raised through the Australian Red Cross Asia Earthquake Appeal will be used for the following activities:
- to support the relief and rehabilitation activities of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Partners in the affected countries, through the emergency appeal
- to fund any deployment of specialist aid workers to the countries to assist in the International Red Cross response
- to support any Australian Red Cross programs of assistance in the affected countries
NOTE: Australian Red Cross will not deduct more than 10% of any donation for an international appeal to cover appeal costs. Should the funds raised exceed the amount required to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of the people in the affected areas, Australian Red Cross will use any excess funds to help people affected by emergencies within the same region of the world.