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South Asia earthquake: one year on

05-10-2006 Operational Update

On 8 October 2005, a massive earthquake killed more than 73,000 people in Kashmir, flattening entire villages and causing enormous damage to roads and water systems. In partnership with the Pakistan Red Crescent and other participating National Societies, the ICRC responded to the urgent needs of earthquake victims, and will continue its support to repair infrastructure and restore livelihoods well into 2007.

  ©ICRC/F. Clarke/pk-e-00167    
  Muzaffarabad. Aerial view of destruction by earthquake.    
  ©ICRC/F. Clarke/pk-e-00003    
  The centre of Muzaffarabad's Neelum Stadium serves as a helipad. ICRC helicopters evacuating the seriously injured to Islamabad. 15.10.2005    
  ©ICRC/F. Clarke/pk-e-00424    
  Muzaffarabad. Injured child in traction in the paediatric ward at the ICRC referral field hospital. 04.11.2005    
  ©ICRC/J. Björgvinsson/pk-e-00566    
  Jehlum valley, Chinari. Prefabricated building being erected on the grounds of an ICRC Basic Health Care Unit. 13.04.2006    
  ©ICRC/J. Björgvinsson/pk-e-00557    
  Neelum valley, Saidpur. Farmer sowing maize seeds provided by the ICRC. 12.04.2006    

 Medical evacuations  

From 13 October, ICRC helicopters evacuated about 1,000 injured people from remote areas to Islamabad and the ICRC field hospital in Muzaffarabad. ICRC medical teams were also involved in performing on-the-spot first aid and wound care in villages where distribution of relief items took place.


 ICRC Field Hospital  

Following the earthquake, the ICRC immediately mobilized a medical team to establish a field hospital in Muzaffarabad. The hospital – provided jointly by the Finnish and Norwegian Red Cross Societies – opened on 21 October. By the time of its closure on 28 February 2006, there had been 816 admissions, 812 operations, and 757 outpatient consultations. There had been 80 births in the hospital, 20 of them by caesarean section. The tents and equipment for the hospital have been handed over to the Ministry of Health of Pakistan-administered Kashmir following the successful completion by 67 Pakistani medical personnel of an intensive two-week training course to enable the participants to operate the field hospital on their own should another natural disaster hit the area or other emergencies occur.

 Muzaffarabad Basic Health Care Unit  

The Basic Health Unit (BHCU) in Muzaffarabad, provided by the German Red Cross, opened on 24 October and was operational until 13 May 2006. It handled 17,000 patient consultations and 1,400 vaccinations. The BHU was dismantled and handed over to the Pakistani Red Crescent Society (PRCS)

 Pattika and Chinari Basic Health Care Units  

BHUs in Pattika (provided by the Finnish Red Cross) and Chinari (provided by the Japanese Red Cross) opened at the end of October 2005 and had handled close to 42,000 patient consultations by the end of September 2006. Over the course of the year, the ICRC replaced the initial tented BHCUs with prefabricated buildings that will then be handed over to the Ministry of Health.


 Cham Mother & Child Health Centre (MCH)  


The MCH clinic opened on 2 December 2005 and by the end of September 2006, there had been over 6,500 patient consultations.


 Dhanni Rural Health Centre  

From 7 March 2006, the ICRC supported the Rural Health Centre (RHC) of the MoH in Dhanni, which was completely destroyed by the earthquake. The ICRC-funded permanent building for this RHC will soon replace the existing temporary facility.

 Physical Rehabilitation Programme  

The ICRC strengthened its already existing referral system for physically disabled persons from Pakistan-administered Kashmir to Fauji Foundation Artificial Limb Centre in Rawalpindi, and to PIPOS Institute in Peshawar. This programme provides pr osthetic and orthopaedic devices, treatment, travel, accommodation and meals. Because of the earthquake, an increasing number of physically disabled patients was registered (between 800-1000). The ICRC decided to build a physical rehabilitation centre.


 Future plans  

  • Completion of new health-care facilities for BHUs in Pattika and Chinari, as well as for the RHC in Dhanni

  • Over the coming years, the ICRC plans to continue supporting the MoH with staff training and supplies in mother and child care; including a refresher course on the deployment of a field hospital.

  • Completion of Physical Rehabilitation Centre in Muzaffarabad.

Restoring family links 

From mid-October 2005 the ICRC, in collaboration with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS), extended its tracing services (exchange of messages, tracing requests and phone service) to the entire quake-affected population. Special focus was given to registering unaccompanied children and vulnerable separated children for tracing purposes.

Back in June, a book and posters with the names and, wherever possible, photos of those missing were placed in schools, hospitals, PRCS and ICRC offices and other public places to help elucidate the fate of those who went missing following the earthquake.


 Exchange of family news  

By November 2006, 2,200 persons separated from their families had used an ICRC/PRCS satellite phone service to contact their relatives either inside Pakistan or abroad. This service was offered mostly in remote rural areas during ICRC relief distributions.

To date, 237 family messages have been collected in Pakistan by ICRC/PRCS teams and 91 messages have been self-posted on the ICRC family links website ( ). Of the 237 messages collected, ICRC and PRCS have so far been able to distribute most of them.

 Registration of unaccompanied and vulnerable separated children  


The ICRC and PRCS have so far registered 163 unaccompanied and vulnerable separated children in hospitals, camps and shelters in order to locate their parents and/or relatives for possible reunification. Out of 163 registered children, 95 have been reunited with their families and 56 have re-established contact with family members.

 Tracing of the missing since the quake  


Tracing requests from people seeking relatives evacuated to hospital or who had migrated to urban areas are followed up on a regular basis. By the end of September 2006, 416 tracing requests, from people seeking relatives missing since the earthquake were submitted either to the ICRC family links website or collected by the ICRC and PRCS in the field. Out of the tracing requests submitted, 223 cases have been closed altogether while 193 persons are still missing. 

 Civil society  


As part of its efforts to clarify the fate of missing persons, the ICRC has continuously supported relevant authorities and other organizations involved in handling human remains by providing technical advice and equipment.


 Future plans  


Efforts to obtain information on persons who went missing following the earthquake will continue. The ICRC and PRCS will also continue to identify unaccompanied children and locate their families.


Food and economic security 

Following the earthquake, the population was in dire need of food and non-food items. The ICRC initiated its relief distribution on 13 October in the Neelum and Jhelum valleys. Due to the badly damaged road network, a fleet of helicopters was used to reach remote villages in the two valleys. As road conditions improved, trucks were added to the operations.

Based on an initial assessment, the ICRC undertook to distribute relief to 30,000 families. However, given the scale of the disaster, a further 20,000 households were added to the distribution lists, bringing the total number of beneficiaries to 200,000.. The ICRC conducted assessments in remote valleys on a daily basis to identify needs.

By the end of March 2006, using a fleet of up to nine helicopters, the ICRC completed its planned two rounds of distributions of blankets, tarpaulins and food to 50,000 families in the Neelum and Jhelum valleys.

 Agricultural Support Programme  

In April 2006, the organization's agricultural support programme distributed seeds and tools to 30 000 households from 227 villages by helicopter and truck. ICRC agronomists and trained staff provided support and advice to help villagers maximize their harvest.


 Livestock Programme  


Due to heavy losses of livestock as a result of the earthquake, the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people were at risk. Livestock losses in different parts of Muzaffarabad District are estimated to range from 30% to 90%. The animals represent not only lost assets, but essential dietary elements, particularly milk and milk products for children.

The ICRC, together with the German Red Cross (GRC) and in close coordination with the local authorities, launched a livestock intervention. The project initially targets the most vulnerable families in over 100 villages within Union Councils (UC's) of the Neelum valley. Programme managers plan to distribute almost 1,500 milking cows by the end of 2006 and will continue and expand their work in 2007.


 Future plans  


 Ongoing to December 2006: The ICRC is planning to provide walnut trees to farmers for future sustainable development in the area. 26 villages in four UCs of the Jhelum valley have been selected for the project, and another seven villages are under assessment. The distribution of saplings will follow in December 2006.

 Ongoing to end of 2006:  

  • completion of livestock assessment and distribution of livestock to selected beneficiaries;

  • rehabilitation of water mills will be launched.



Since the beginning of its operations, the ICRC has been supporting authorities in reconnecting water supplies in the towns of Muzaffarabad, Hattian, Chinari and Pattika, and their surroundings. The ICRC is now involved in the rehabilitation of water systems in rural areas. To prevent health hazards associated with open defecation, construction of community latrines is planned for several larger settlements.

During October and early November 2005, work focused on reconnecting water supplies for the population in Pattika and Chinari towns, and on providing safe water to the three Basic Health Units and ICRC Field Hospital in Muzaffarabad.

In June 2006, the new two kilometre water pipeline for Chinari town was completed. Along the Jhelum valley, the ICRC is currently rehabilitating water schemes in eight villages – benefiting some 10,000 people.

In Neelum valley, the ICRC is helping the local population to reconstruct water supply systems in 10 villages, to the benefit of 12,000 people.

 Future plans  


  • ongoing to end of 2006 : rehabilitation of 40 rural water supply schemes;

  • continuation of rural water and sanitation activities well into 2007 and improvement of another 50 water schemes;

  • rehabilitation of irrigation schemes to enable higher crop yields.


ICRC engineers provided corrugated iron sheets and tools for 10 000 families to build temporary shelters in collaboration with local communities in Neelum valley. Special emphasis was put on households headed by widows and the elderly. Distributions were carried out with the support of local community leaders, village heads, PRCS members, and in coordination with army personnel, all of whom helped to identify the most vulnerable families in the villages.

Cooperation with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society 

The ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies coordinated closely to provide a comprehensive and unified response to the earthquake in partnership with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS). The ICRC provided funds, facilitated transportation and warehousing, and gave volunteer and staff training to the PRCS for joint assistance activities. The main activities carried out jointly by the ICRC and PRCS included the distribution of shelter, food and non-food items, and the tracing of people gone missing during the e arthquake. The PRCS took full responsibility for providing relief to 75,000 beneficiaries, mobilizing approximately 200 volunteers to assist with the task.