Bulletin No. 22 - South Asia earthquake
10-11-2005 Operational Update
In the aftermath of the earthquake in South Asia, the ICRC has issued an emergency appeal for additional funding and is concentrating its relief efforts on providing medical assistance, shelter, food and water to those affected.
Over 1,000 tonnes of aid delivered to more than 61,000 earthquake victims
The " 1,000 tonnes " milestone was passed as, with the help of good weather and satisfactory road conditions, ICRC teams in Neelum and Jhelum valleys moved over 550 tonnes of relief supplies by road and air to beneficiaries in Muzaffarabad district during the past six days alone. The total of ICRC aid delivered now stands at 1,270 tonnes.
These figures illustrate the point ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger made earlier this week upon his return from Pakistan when he stated that " if you have the necessary commitment and means you can achieve meaningful action. " Mr Kellenberger said that he had been struck by the scale of the destruction but that the ICRC was concentrating now on what could be done to save lives rather than focusing on logistical obstacles.
ICRC aid has so far reached over 61,000 of the 200,000 earthquake victims the organization intends to assist before the end of the year. In all, the ICRC plans to provide aid for about 25 per cent of the population of Muzaffarabad district, which stood at around 900,000 before the earthquake.
First "mission accomplished" in Rajkot
ICRC helicopters recently flew in the last supply relief supplies they had to deliver in Rajkot (Neelum valley). They also evacuated six patients on t heir flights out. The distributions of emergency food and shelter materials have been completed after more than 219 tonnes of rice, split peas, sugar, ghee, tea and salt were handed out to over 6,000 beneficiaries. The villagers were also given more than 6,500 warm blankets and 2,300 tarpaulins to address their immediate shelter needs.
Villagers in Rajkot will receive a second round of relief supplies, including warm clothing, before winter sets in.
Most earthquake victims now evacuated
ICRC medical evacuations are down to less than 10 per day now as most of those injured in the earthquake have already been evacuated. The ICRC has so far carried around 550 patients out of Neelum and Jhelum valleys, most of them by helicopter. However, several injured persons who received no treatment at all after the earthquake still come to the ICRC's basic health units every day.
At the ICRC tent hospital in Muzaffarabad, the number of in-patients has stabilized at around 110 as the number of new cases is matched by the number of discharges. The Norwegian and Finnish Red Cross medical teams have performed close to 50 operations over the past three days.
Poor conditions at the camps in Muzaffarabad
Several spontaneous camps have sprung up in Muzaffarabad as earthquake victims have pitched their tents in the few available flat areas in town. While var ious organizations have been providing food and shelter, water and sanitation conditions in the camps are extremely poor and have led to outbreaks of acute watery diarrhoea and severe dehydration. The ICRC is looking into this matter with the local authorities, other international humanitarian organizations and local Islamic charities and it stands ready to help if necessary. Apart from its efforts to help people trace missing relatives, the ICRC is not active in these camps.
Medical needs are changing
At the Japanese Red Cross basic health care unit in Chinari (Jhelum valley), only around 20 to 30 per cent of the 70 odd cases still treated each day are earthquake victims. Most of them suffer from minor injuries or were already treated once after the earthquake.
Many patients are now being treated for respiratory infections, diarrhoea or chronic diseases such as hypertension or diabetes. Dr Takao Suzuki, the leader of the Japanese team, explained: " Japan is an earthquake-ridden country. We know that after an earthquake, there are three phases: an initial phase focused on the management of surgical trauma cases, a medical phase in which it is essential to deal with psychological suffering and the outbreak of communicable diseases owing to lack of water, shelter and hygiene, and finally a longer-term phase in which the entire health system must be rebuilt. This includes the redevelopment of health human resources, primary health care services and the system of referral to secondary and tertiary hospitals. "
Dr Suzuki and part of his team are being replaced by newly arriv ed colleagues after working in Jhelum valley (in Chikar – where the unit was first based – and now Chinari) since 12 October. Looking back at a month of hard work in Jhelum valley, where they have treated over 700 patients, the doctor said: " It was a real challenge for us to work in such circumstances, with no electricity, and often with no medical examination facilities, in the open air. At the same time, we are very satisfied with this mission because there were so many desperate people who had been waiting for our help. "
Ministry of health staff join Japanese team
While a renewed Japanese Red Cross medical team will remain active in Chinari, preparations are already under way to gradually turn the basic health care unit into a local structure. " Our aim is to ensure that the government employees of the health unit destroyed in the earthquake take over our work as soon as possible, " Dr Suzuki said. Five out of nine of these employees have already started work, and a doctor and some nurses and women's health visitors are due to join as soon as possible.
Abida Rafi, who holds a master's degree in political science from the Punjab university in Lahore, now works as a translator to facilitate communication within the team. She lives in Chinari, where her family's house was destroyed in the quake. " It was the most beautiful and decorated house in Chinari, " she said. " We feel so uncomfortable living in a tent. I am glad to be working because it keeps me busy and I don't have time to think about other things. I can help others and help myself, and I can also earn some money for rebuilding our house. "
Progress on water system – Road now open
Work continues to set up a temporary water supply by pumping river water for the health unit and the population in Chinari. The first part of a plastic pipeline has now been laid and a water tank has been installed in the middle of the 60-metre-high cliff. At the same time, two ICRC engineers have joined efforts with employees of the local water board to restore the water supply fed by a well in the mountains. As a result, the authorities have been able to start trucking water in for the town's residents.
The road to Chinari has recently been re-opened and the town is becoming more lively as small shops start doing business again. However, the grim task of removing bodies from under the rubble of collapsed buildings prevents any return to normal life.
President Jakob Kellenberger stresses ICRC commitment
For further information, please contact:
Islamabad / Pakistan
mobile +92 300 850 81 38
satellite phone: +88 216 89 80 41 45
attention: L. Berlemont
(ICRC Islamabad central tel. +92 51 282 47 80 or 282 47 52)
Muzaffarabad / Pakistan-administered Kashmir
Jessica Barry, ICRC Muzaffarabad, + 92 300 852 87 04
or Helena Laatio (ICRC/Finnish Red Cross), satellite phone +88 2165 420 7201
New Delhi / India
mobile +91 98 11 80 66 33
(ICRC New Delhi central tel. +91 11 24 35 23 38/97 or 24 35 43 94/95/96)
Geneva / Switzerland
mobile +41 79 217 32 64
ICRC Geneva press secretariat
tel. +41 22 730 34 43
Pakistan: GMT + 4 hours; India: GMT + 4.5 hours; Geneva: GMT +1