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Operational update on the humanitarian activities of Red Cross and Red Crescent in response to the Asia quake - 24 October 2005


Monday October 24, 2005

Background

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 has passed 48,000 and will continue to rise. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates 65,000 people have been injured and that around 50,000 still require treatment.

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 with freezing temperatures posing major health concerns.

Continued constraints

The logistical challenges are considerable. Mountainous terrain, damaged road networks and inclement weather continue to hamper relief efforts. In addition, limited infrastructure and the high volume of incoming relief goods continue to strain resources at the airport in Islamabad.

The initial appeal of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for $72 million is only 34.5 per cent covered (as at 24 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:

  • Hang Vo (VIC), Islamabad and field, helping establish contact between separated or missing family members
  • Claire Collins (VIC), Muzaffarabad, helping set up the field hospital
  • Norma 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
  • Agnes Beaton (NT) - has returned to Afghanistan after completing a two week mission as health coordinator for the International Red Cross in Islamabad

Logistics

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 are being launched.

Sixteen light-weight vehicles have arrived from the International Red Cross' freight base in Dubai. Drivers are now being trained, and a fleet manager will be arriving shortly. 40 additional M-6 trucks are due to arrive from Norway over the next week.

Two Red Cross Logistics Emergency Response Units (ERU) and two IT/Telecommunications ERUs have been deployed to support the huge Red Cross Red Crescent response.

Emergency Relief

  • Red Cross has to date mobilised: 41,573 tents; 344,315 blankets; 2,000 jerry cans; 31,370 tarpaulins; 19,596 kitchen sets; 10,000 kerosene lamps; and 17 new emergency health kits.
  • 32 Red Cross cargo flights have arrived in Islamabad carrying over 800 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 (as at 21 October). This number is increasing every day.
  • 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 plans to provide aid to between 1,200 and 1,500 families per day in the isolated Neelum valley through the distribution of blankets and tarpaulins.
  • 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.

Health care

  • 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.
  • Over 13,000 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. So far, 47 severely injured earthquake victims have been admitted, including 18 children.
  • A basic health care Emergency Response Unit (ERU) has been set up to deal with outpatients from the field hospital as well as referrals. The aim of the health care unit is to perform minor surgery and treat as many people who are slightly injured or have minor illnesses as possible to relieve pressure on the field hospital's beds.
  • Basic health care ERUs are also being established in some of the worst affected areas: in the Neehlum and Jehlum valleys, and in Chikar. In the meantime, Red Cross medical personnel are being flown in everyday to isolated villages to provide immediate medical assistance to earthquake survivors.
  • In addition, ERUs will be established in Batagram and Balakot, each with the capacity to handle 30,000 patients for three months, whilst another is on its way to Abbotabad.
  • Pakistan Red Crescent's Blood Bank in Islamabad has now collected 1,081 units of blood since October 8.

Water and sanitation

Red Cross engineers have helped repair Muzaffarabad's water-treatment plant. However, the full extent of the damage to the city-s water-distribution network became apparent as soon as pumping resumed with about three quarters of the water pumped leaking out of damaged pipes. Red Cross will work with local authorities to assist in the reconstruction of these damaged pipes.

A Red Cross Water and Sanitation Emergency Response Unit (ERU) is being established in Balakot.

Restoring family links

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.

Red Cross response in India

So far, the Indian Red Cross Society and the International Red Cross have distributed or mobilised the following relief items to earthquake survivors in Kashmir and Jammu:

* Over 1,200 tents
* More than 71,000 blankets
* Approximately 11,000 kitchen sets
* 1,300 food packs

The Indian Red Cross has also supplied medicines to a health-care facility in Poonch and a water purifier to the hospital in Uri.

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