South Asia earthquake: food distribution continues in mountain villages
January's favourable weather conditions allowed the ICRC to increase the volume of food distribution in remote areas affected by the earthquake. Eight helicopters and more than 50 trucks operated to deliver vital supplies to the village of Seri Dara, a remote mountain village southeast of Muzaffarabad. ICRC communication delegate Rashad Akhundov reports.
An ICRC helicopter delivering food to the village of Seri Dara.
Life has never been easy for the people living in the mountain villages of the Muzaffarabad district in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. But since the destructive earthquake of 8 October 2005, they have had to endure additional difficulties.
The ICRC chopper left early morning to distribute food supplies to 413 families in the village of Seri Dara, southeast of Muzaffarabad. That day the helicopter made 18 rotations and lowered food in slings.
This village is covered by the ICRC's six week-long food distribution programme. Within the first three months of 2006, the ICRC is planning to hold two rounds of food distribution to more than 24'000 families (almost 170'000 per sons) in 13 districts of the Neelum and Jhelum valleys.
As soon as we arrived, local villagers started to gather on the helipad. According to the local tradition, they immediately invited us to the nearest house for a cup of tea with milk. As we drank, I started a conversation with a local villager – 22 year-old Rafig. He graduated from the college of Muzaffarabad, but then decided to return to his home village.
" Survival became very difficult after the earthquake. It completely changed our lives " , said Rafig, recalling the disaster.
" Immediately after the earthquake, our first concern was to save our own lives, trying to climb out of fragments of fallen houses. Then, we started to look at how we could help others, who were still under the rubble. People in need of medical treatment were transported to hospitals in Muzaffarabad. That was quite difficult, since most roads were closed due to landslides after the rains " .
According to Rafig, 55 people died in Seri Dara village and the surrounding areas.
Seri Dara villagers unloading food supplies from the helipad.
" We are trying to overcome challenges with th e help of the army and humanitarian organizations, including the ICRC. Some villagers work in Muzaffarabad as government servants, others run cattle farms " , said Rafig.
Our conversation was interrupted by the chopper's arrival. Seri Dara villagers rushed to the helipad to unload the food supplies and store them properly at the delivery point nearby before distributing them among villagers according to the list previously submitted to the ICRC.
The ICRC food rations cover the basic nutritional needs of the people. They consist of several items, including rice, peas, ghee, sugar, tea and salt. In two days, the ICRC helicopters completed forty trips and delivered ninety tons of food to the village of Seri Dara.
By 10 February the ICRC had delivered more than 10,500 metric tons of food and shelter materials including tents, tarpaulins, blankets, clothes as well as essential household items to more than 350,000 beneficiaries.