By Brian McAfee
With now over 300 reported deaths, 500 injured and thousands rendered homeless as a result of the October 29 earthquake that struck Baluchistan in southwest Pakistan a new need for humanitarian assistance presents itself. Many in the area have left their homes because of fear that their homes will collapse due to structural damage from the initial earthquake or the numerous aftershocks that continue to occur.
UNICEF reports that over 70,00o people, 30,000 of them children have been left homeless. Numerous aid organizations as well as the Pakistani military have entered the area to give assistance. Winter is already setting in the region that is at an elevation of about 5500 feet. The cold weather requires the need for an influx of cold weather clothes, tents and shoes, among other things.
One of the district health officers in the area, Ayub Kakar, says that "due to the cold hundreds of children are being treated for pneumonia, abdominal diseases, diarrhoea and chest problems". Women, according to a AFP report in Khaleej Times "were not getting medical treatment because of deeply conservative traditions and the fact that hospitals were also hit"
Because of the remoteness of the region some of the outlying areas are accessible only by helicopter so a full assessment of the damage and need was/is not immediately knowable.
Pakistan was hit by an earthquake in 2005 in which 81,000 perished. The Pakistani government and numerous aid organizations that dealt with that experience are now faced with it again. The 2005 earthquake was predated by the pre-partition Indian earthquake of 1935 in which 35,000 died. Given the fault lines that permeate the Himalayas the inevitability of continued earthquakes is a reality that requires grater scrutiny. An International plan of action, similar to that that has been developed after the 2004 tsunami, should be implemented.
-Brian McAfee is a freelance writer and researcher living in Michigan where he is involved in projects promoting social justice and peace initiatives. This article was contributed to the PalestineChronicle.com.