Friday October 21, 2005
According to official estimates, the October 8 earthquake has affected four million people (one million severely) and displaced 3.3 million. The official death toll in Pakistan alone is now 40,000 and officials expect this figure to rise significantly. The World Health organisation (WHO) estimates that 65,000 people have been injured, of whom some 50,000 remain untreated.
Medical assistance and shelter remain the most urgent priorities. Access to clean water is also a major concern. As winter closes in, those living out in the open are becoming increasingly vulnerable.
The logistical challenges are considerable. Mountainous terrain, damaged road networks and inclement weather continue to hamper relief efforts. In addition, airport congestion, cargo handling and sourcing transport continue to create problems.
Red Cross aid workers attempting to reach isolated villages in affected valleys have reported that in some cases rugged terrain has made it impossible to land helicopters. These places will remain extremely difficult to reach. The villagers will have to take the injured further down the valleys for evacuation but it is feared for many victims this will be too late.
The initial appeal of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for $72 million is less than 35 per cent covered (as at 21 October).
Red Cross/Red Crescent response in Pakistan
Australian Red Cross response
Australian Red Cross has so far deployed 6 aid workers to support the global Red Cross and Red Crescent relief effort in Pakistan. They are:
- Agnes Beaton (WA), Islamabad, helping coordinate the medical response
- Hang Vo (VIC), Islamabad and field, helping establish contact between separated or missing family members
- Claire Collins (VIC), Muzaffarabad, helping set up the field hospitalNorma McRae (QLD), Islamabad and field, assessment and coordination of health activities
- Ian Woolverton (VIC) - Islamabad, providing information support
- Mary-Ellen Fitzpatrick (NT) - Islamabad airport, in charge of the logistical operation
Red Cross logistic centres have been established in Islamabad, Muzaffarabad and Abbotabad. Smaller centres have been established in Mansehra and Balakot from which distributions to numerous outlying villages will be organised.
With the arrival of an additional helicopter Red Cross staff in Muzaffarabad have been able to undertake much more detailed surveys of the situation in the remoter parts of Jehlum and Neehlum Valleys, as well as to the south of the city. Two Red Cross Logistics Emergency Response Units (ERU) and 2 IT/Telecommunications ERUs have been deployed to support the huge Red Cross Red Crescent response.
- 25 Red Cross cargo flights have arrived in Islamabad carrying over 625 tonnes of relief goods and medical supplies
- The Pakistan Red Crescent and the international Red Cross have distributed a total of 198 truckloads of relief materials in affected areas. This number is increasing everyday
- 4,600 winterised tents have been distributed, with a further 35,000 in the relief pipeline
- 92,000 blankets are currently being distributed in Pakistan. A further 231,000 have been procured and are on their way to Pakistan
- Families living in regions of Kashmir accessible by road will receive one-off non-food packages containing tents, blankets, tarpaulins, soap, jerry cans, kitchen sets, warm clothes and shoes
- Red Cross relief distributions to people accessible by road are expected to continue at the rate of 5,000 families a week
- 10,000 families in more remote areas will receive a three-month supply of food, as it is expected that winter-weather will make access to these areas increasingly difficult in the coming months
Water and sanitation
- Eight Pakistan Red Crescent medical teams made up of 55 doctors and medics are travelling on foot and by helicopter to very remote areas, going village to village
- Some 11,330 people have been treated by the Red Crescent since the earthquake mainly for fractures, soft tissue injuries and lacerations
- A 30 tonne mobile field hospital has been established in Muzaffarabad. The hospital has a 100 bed capacity and extensive surgical facilities
- An additional basic health care unit will be set up to deal with outpatients, and to handle referrals to the larger field hospital
- Basic health care Emergency Response Units (ERU) are also being established in some of the worst affected areas: in the Neehlum and Jehlum valleys, and in Chikar
- In addition, ERUs will be established in Batagram and Balakot, each with the capacity to handle 30,000 patients for three months
- Pakistan Red Crescent's Blood Bank in Islamabad has now collected 928 Units of blood since October 8
A Red Cross water and sanitation team has been working to rehabilitate the main pumping station in Muzaffarabad in an effort to restore water to the beleaguered city. As a result of these efforts, almost 60 per cent of the city is now getting running water for five hours a day. However, there are still many leaks in the system that need repair.
A water and sanitation Emergency Response Unit is being established in Balakot, one of the cities worst affected by the earthquake. Once operational the unit will be able to produce water for 40,000 people a day, transport 75,000 litres per day and provide latrines for up to 40,000 people.
Restoring family links
The Red Cross continues to visit medical evacuees. Authorities are providing over 10,000 beds through out Pakistan for evacuees. Many have retained links with their families. Where this is not the case, the Red Cross is endeavouring to re-establish links. A number of unaccompanied children have already been registered.
In villages reached by helicopter Red Cross teams are using satellite telephones to enable families to contact relatives in Pakistan and abroad and reassure them of their safety.