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Pakistan: Management of dead bodies after disasters

24-05-2006 News Release 06/29

As part of its activities to help elucidate the fate of persons who have been missing since the devastating earthquake of 8 October 2005, the ICRC is currently holding a two-day workshop in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, on the management of dead bodies after disasters.

The workshop, led by ICRC forensic specialist Dr Eric Dykes, is intended for government and municipal officials, the armed and police forces, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society and several non-governmental organizations.

The 2005 earthquake claimed numerous lives and left thousands injured and hundreds unaccounted for. While most people now know what happened to their relatives, others remain without news of them.

The management of dead bodies is one of the most difficult aspects of disaster response. Rapid disposal of mortal remains without proper identification increases the trauma suffered by families, who remain uncertain about the fate of their relatives, and leads to legal and administrative complications. The workshop focuses on three main issues: the importance of identifying mortal remains before burial, the vital role that local organizations and communities can play and the difficulty of managing human remains.

Immediately after the earthquake, the ICRC provided the police and municipal authorities of Muzaffarabad, the army, and local non-governmental organizations with body bags, digital cameras and technical assistance to help them manage and identify mortal remains. It also supplied the hospital of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad with a cold-storage unit to increase its capacity to act as a central mortuary.

The ICRC and the Pakistan Red Crescent will continue to help families by striving to elucidate the fate of their missing loved ones.

 For more information, please contact:  

 Rashad Akhundov, ICRC Muzaffarabad, tel. +92 300 852 87 04  

 Layla Berlemont Shtewi, ICRC Islamabad, tel. +92 300 850 81 38 or +92 51 282 47 80  

 Annick Bouvier, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 24 58 or +41 79 217 32 24