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Bulletin No. 23 - South Asia earthquake

18-11-2005 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.

 Latest report on ICRC activities in the field  


With the arrival of a Russian MI26 and a Super Puma helicopter during the last days, the ICRC helicopter fleet now comprises nine aircraft. A tenth helicopter is due to start work shortly. The MI26 is the largest existing helicopter and can carry up to 15 tonnes of freight, several times more than other models. This means that, if all helicopters are able to fly, the ICRC's maximum air-freight capacity now stands at over 90 tonnes a day.

The Russian crew flew their first rotations on 17 November to the village of Rahimkot - high in the mountains south-east of Muzaffarabad - to deliver shelter material that is being distributed with the help of 24 volunteers from the Pakistan Red Crescent Society. On its flights back to Muzaffarabad, the MI26 evacuated a baby and a young girl to the ICRC hospital.

Flying conditions have been good and roads are opening up faster than expected. The Jhelum valley and a first section up to Ghori in Neelum Valley are now accessible by road. However, the poor conditions of the roads and continued landslides make these routes precarious if not dangerous. Helicopters are still necessary in order to reach the side-valleys and higher regions that remain inaccessible by road.

 Photos for the press: over 200 recent photos of the earthquake and ICRC action a re now available and can be ordered by    

 General update on ICRC action since the earthquake  


 Humanitarian Response  

In India, the Jammu and Kashmir branch of the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) is providing victims of the earthquake with assistance, with the support of the ICRC.

In Pakistan, less than a week after the earthquake, the ICRC began flying by helicopter into remote areas along the LoC. Many communities had not had any contact with the outside world since the earthquake and were in urgent need of emergency medical attention and shelter. Of the places it assessed in Pakistan-administe red Kashmir, the ICRC found the Neelum and Jhelum Valleys to be the most affected and most inaccessible rural areas. Parts of these valleys are now becoming accessible by road. The condition of the roads is, however, precarious and so the ICRC will still need to rely heavily on helicopters for the time being, particularly to reach many side valleys which are still cut off.

The ICRC is concentrating on providing shelter and medical assistance in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. It is also distributing food and household supplies, helping to rehabilitate water-supply networks and restoring family links. The organization's operation in the region, run in cooperation with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and supported by other Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, will continue throughout the winter into spring.

A three-person ICRC team comprising a nutritionist, a water and habitat engineer, and an economic security specialist are currently in Pakistan-administered Kashmir to assess the situation in preparation for the next phase of the response.

 ICRC Action  

 Wounded and Sick  

The number of untreated injuries directly related to the earthquake has now decreased substantially and the hospital and Emergency Response Units (ERUs) are focusing on providing primary health care, treating illnesses caused by inadequate water supply and sanitation conditions, such as acute watery diarrhoea, and dealing with obstetric emergencies.

 Basic health care emergency response units  

The ERUs run by Red Cross Societies of Japan (Chinari, Jhelum Valley), Finland (Pattika, Neelum Valley) and Germany (Muzaffarabad) continue to receive many patients.

The ICRC has obtained vaccinations from the Ministry of Health and the WHO and patients arriving at the ERUs who are particularly at risk of contracting prevalent diseases are being vaccinated. The ERUs are also raising patients'awareness of proper hygiene practices to help avoid the spread of such diseases.

The ICRC will facilitate the delivery of medicines to treat tuberculosis from the Ministry of Health in Muzaffarabad to the ERU in Pattika where a Ministry of Health tuberculosis technician is now working.

Since opening, the ERUs have performed more than 5,587 consultations . Staff do not simply give patients a one-off consultation but provide them with repeated treatment if needed. This figure therefore represents the number of patients treated; follow-up consultations are not counted.

The ICRC's team of water and habitat engineers have re-established the water supply from the well in the mountains to the main road in Chinari (see Water and Sanitation ) thus improving conditions for the ERU there. Water trucking for the population has now begun.

The ICRC has recently conducted assessments in the Chham Valley area and is in the process of setting up its fourth ERU in Chham. It will provide mainly mother and child health care.

 Medical evacuations  

Medical evacuations from the mountain villages continue, although as time goes by fewer people need to be flown out.

Since it started flying on 14 October, the ICRC has evacuated 614 patients by helicopter from remote areas to medical facilities. This figure is relatively low as the ICRC, wherever possible, has been treating people on the spot, so that they can remain in their villages.

 Field hospital in Muzaffarabad  

Since 21 October, at the field hospital in Muzaffarabad, there have been:

  •  370 admissions (128 women and 167 children)  

  •  319 surgical operations  

The " admissions " figure represents the number of patients undergoing surgery or a course of treatment over a period of time, regardless of the number of consultations given.

 Physical rehabilitation  

In order to meet the needs which have arisen as a result of the earthquake, the ICRC is presently discussing with its partners the possibility of enlarging the existing programmes. This may include the establishment of a new prosthetic/orthotic centre in Muzaffarabad which will offer adequate services to the numerous earthquake amputees.


 Emergency assistance  



In India, the ICRC is supporting the work of the Jammu and Kashmir branch of the Indian Red Cross Society and has provided shelter materials, blankets, mats, kitchen sets, and warm local clothing. The ICRC has also given support towards transport and logistics costs.


The ICRC is continuing to distribute shelter materials and food to people in remote areas of the Neelum and Jhelum valleys. More blankets, tents, tarpaulins and food have been flown to villages in the Neelum and Jhelum Valleys, such as Raikat, Saidpur, Sarian, Patti Awanan and Guja Bandi.

Early on, the ICRC decided to concentrate on distributing tarpaulins, rather than tents. Not only did this optimize the use of cargo capacity in helicopters and enable the ICRC to provide more households with assistance per sortie, but it was also in response to a specific request from beneficiaries. Many people have preferred to construct shelters or repair existing homes using bricks they find in the rubble and corrugated iron sheeting. They needed tarpaulins to waterproof these makeshift shelters.

In addition, the ICRC will provide tools and construction materials (crowbars, pliers, wire cutters, hammers, saws, nails and reinforced plastic/corrugated iron sheeting) to enable them to build improved shelters for the winter and/or repair damaged houses.

The need to use helicopters has been a limiting factor in the speed and scope of the activities undertaken by the ICRC. Nevertheless, all target groups have been identified (40,000 families) and, as roads reopen, the transport of goods will increasingly be by trucks.

A plan for all roa d convoys until the end of year has been drawn up, which should allow the ICRC to complete its first round of distributions of shelter materials, essential household items and food by mid-December. Preparations will next be made for the distributions planned for February/March.

To date, some 90,000 people (18,000 families comprising five people) have received shelter materials, essential household items and some food (a total of more than 10 different items). This amounts to 1,732 tonnes of goods .

 Water and sanitation  

In Chinari (Jhelum valley) the water supply for the village which originated from a spring became disconnected after landslides which destroyed the pipe line. The water supply to the whole area was cut off. The ICRC set up a temporary emergency water supply for the Japanese ERU and for the population living in the vicinity. The water is being pumped directly from the river and is being disinfected in a small water-treatment unit. Two ICRC engineers, with the help of the people from the water board, are now working to restore the former water-supply system damaged by the landslide.

The water supply in Patikka (Neelum valley) has been re-established. From the main reservoir, three distribution points have been built: two for the resident population and one for the ERU run by the Finnish Red Cross.

In Chanali work continues with a view to re-connecting the water supply and constructing one or two water points. Furthermore, work continues in Muzaffarabad to boost the capacity of the water-treatment plant and the distribution network to increase water supply throughout the town.

 Restoring family links  


The ICRC and the IRCS are continuing to look into ways to respond to the needs of the people who are without news of their relatives on either side of the LoC.


Since the earthquake, more than 1,000 calls have been made using satellite and mobile phones provided by the ICRC. These calls have enabled people, mainly in isolated villages in the Jhelum and Neelum valleys or in hospitals, to make initial contact with their relatives to inform them where and how they are and pass on news of other people they know.

As more camps spring up, be they run by the government, army or other organizations, the ICRC makes visits to assess tracing needs and register unaccompanied and separated children. Further assessments have confirmed that most people know where their relatives are and have the means to keep in touch with them. The number of unaccompanied children registered by the ICRC has risen to 73 but still represents a small fraction of the surviving population. A total of 59 of these children are now back in touch, or have been reunited, with their families


 Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement  

Following the earthquake, the ICRC took responsibility and the lead for coordinating emergency activities in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The International Federation is coordinating operations in the rest of the country.

Cooperation between the ICRC and the PRCS is working well and is enhancing the effectiveness of the Mov ement response to the earthquake. The ICRC is supporting the PRCS in effecting distribution in Jhelum Valleys. The National Society has registered its beneficiaries and is preparing for further distribution. The ICRC has called forward the items for the distribution from its warehouse in Mansehra and will cover the warehouse and transport costs incurred by the PRCS in storing and dispatching the relief goods.

In addition to the ICRC and International Federation operations which are supported by several partner National Societies, other operations are being undertaken independently in Pakistan by some National Societies, such as those of Iran, Italy, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

 Humanitarian coordination  

The ICRC has been participating in coordination activities with all actors since the emergency response began on 8 October. The ICRC maintains a regular dialogue with Pakistani authorities at all levels, ensuring that the organization's activities fit into the government's action plan at both local and national level.

The ICRC actively contributes to general and sectoral coordination with the UN, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in Muzaffarabad, Islamabad, Geneva and New York, and with the World Food Programme (WFP) in Rome.

It provides, in a timely manner, information on its current and planned activities, and shares its technical expertise wherever possible and relevant, for example in the fields of health, economic security and tracing.


By 16 November:

  •  2,207 tonnes of relief and materials h ad been transported by plane to Pakistan from abroad, through Peshawar or Islamabad;

  •  9 helicopters were being operated by the ICRC and flying to remote areas in Pakistan-administrated Kashmir. Since the first helicopter became operational on 14 October 2005, some 792 helicopter sorties from Islamabad and Abbottabad to villages in the Jhelum and Neelum valleys as well as to Muzaffarabad have been coordinated by the ICRC air-ops team;

  •  400 ICRC and rented trucks had transported 4,919 tonnes of goods , in particular from Islamabad and Peshawar, to Abbottabad, Balakot, Batagram, Mansehra and Muzaffarabad, and from Muzaffarabad to distribution points.


By 16 November:

  •  180 expatriates were based in Pakistan, 75 of whom were health staff and 22 logistics staff. These expatriates include staff seconded by the Australian, British, Danish, German, Finnish, Japanese, New Zealand, Norwegian and Swedish National Societies.

  •  730 national staff were working for the ICRC, including daily workers;

the operational base camp – including housing, food, office space and material – provided by the German Red Cross with a management, building and maintenance team, was established in Muzaffarabad. Its modular structure means that it can be adapted as needs arise; for example, some tents are being used to extend the hospital, and others for accommodation and storage. Generators, heaters and office materials have all arriv ed at the site and are being set up.



To respond to the needs of the earthquake victims, the ICRC extended its 2005 budget for Pakistan from an initial 5.6 m Swiss francs to 62 million francs and launched an appeal to donors on 17 October. The extension covers operations only until 31 December 2005.

To date, the ICRC has received over 30 million Swiss francs in contributions to its operations in Pakistan. The public have donated over 1,8 million francs to the ICRC, including 700,000 francs through on-line donations.

The ICRC is asking donors and the public to continue responding generously to the appeal.


For further information, please contact:

 Islamabad / Pakistan  

Leyla Berlemont

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)

Languages: English/French/Arabic

 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  

Michael O'Brien

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)

Languages: English

 Geneva / Switzerland (week-end)  

Dorothea Krimitsas

mobile : +41 79 217 25 90

ICRC Geneva press secretariat

tel. +41 22 730 34 43


Pakistan: GMT + 4 hours; India: GMT + 4.5 hours; Geneva: GMT +1