Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Don't forget the earthquake, updated

Any idea how many casualties following the October 8 earthquake?

What about 73,000? via Quake Help Blog

Pakistan's official earthquake death toll jumped by 16,000, and officials warned Wednesday that it is likely to rise further as relief supplies fail to reach thousands of victims stranded in remote parts of the Himalayas.

The announcement, which puts the official toll at 73,000, brings the central government figures closer to the number reported by local officials, who say the Oct. 8 quake killed at least 79,000 people in Pakistan.

"Just imagine how many villages and towns became a heap of rubble and how many people got buried," Maj.-Gen. Farooq Ahmed Khan told reporters.

Khan said 73,276 people have been confirmed dead in Pakistan and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, up from the official count of 57,597. In India's portion of Kashmir, an additional 1,350 people died.

More than 69,000 people had severe injuries, with the total number of injured much higher, the general said.

Read this post...

Fakhr e Alam’s message about United Pakistan

It has been over 14 days now that I and my volunteers have been working in the valleys of death. Though we have been told that the rescue phase is over and we are all to work on relief and rehab….the truth is that yesterday after 21 days a man was found alive from underneath the rubble alive. Sad that we have given up on these people. Only God knows how many are still alive underneath all that concrete, hoping, praying and waiting for us…..if they would only know that on the surface we have already declared them dead.

Ask yourselves for a moment if you or your loved one was underneath the rubble of your own home, and we gave up on them on day 8….how would you feel?

Anyway as much as I try, I cannot fight the system. However we must not give up, and continue to do what we want too, what we have too. Please remember we will not get any medal for all our efforts, only Allah can reward us for what we do.
Our forward teams have gone where no one has gone…we have been co ordinating our efforts with the Pakistan army, and hence were pin pointed where doctors were needed…..we have reached and delivered. The great thing about UNITED PAKISTAN…..is that it is not an NGO. People working for NGO’s have big salaries. Most of your donations go into administrative costs with NGOs…basically paying salaries of the big fish. In UNITED PAKISTAN we are all working as volunteers and doing it with heart and soul.

Sad part is that many big NGO’s working in the region have packed up and left or deserted their camps. Leaving patients in tents needing critical post op care. WHY? beacuse the photo opoortunity is over…media has moved into further areas, and the NGOs have gotten what they wanted, good coverage so that they can claim more donations from you. Be careful where you give your donations.

Something bad is happening.
There is a great opportunity for the US to make a dramatic mark in a part of the world that needs to see the US make such a mark.
Hearts and minds are waiting.
This is what some people would call a "teachable moment."

November 8 addendum

I heard the number of casualties last night on NBC reported at 80.000 and rising. The media is losing interest. The NGO's seem to be getting tired. This is a tragedy in slow motion and the people involved are being left to their tragic, pitiful and woefully inadequate resources.

This was published this morning in Katachi Metroblogging.

Let us hear the mother of one of the girls buried under the rubble. The interview was conducted on October 26.

“I have been going to school everyday with my husband, taking a torch with me so I can look into the nooks and crannies for any sign of my daughter’s body. Yesterday, my husband came running, asking what little Laiba was wearing when she died. You know how men are; they often don’t know these things about their own children. I told him she was wearing a half-sleeved frock and toghts. His face fell. He said he had spotted what looked like a girl’s body, but it seemed like she was wearing a shalwar.”

The woman’s name is Naseem Gulshan and she was a primary class teacher at a government school. Not satisfied with the standards of her own school. She had sent her daughter to a private school known as Alfalah. But it was not enough to save her life. Now every day since October 8, Naseem goes to the school in the hope of finding her daughter’s body. This is the hell she has been living in since that fateful day.

The village of Chinari has been comprehensively destroyed and rendered unlivable. But unlike most other residents, Naseem and a few other mothers refuse to leave until they have found the bodies of their children.

Why are we telling this story now, almost a month after it happened?

Nothing illustrates the state of the relief operations better than this tale of horror. Not that the army isn’t doing anything. Not that the non-governmental organizations are wasting their time. It is just that the scale of this tragedy that has reduced the relief operations to a state where even after a month, people are either still digging for their dead relatives or starving to death. Kashmir in particular seems to have become the devil’s abode. It is a world where grief abounds in such quantities that it towers way above the mountains that dot its once picture postcard landscape. Every day, in the midst of hills that are still crumbling, the devil laughs harder.

And we have Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz telling the world that he is satisfied with international relief efforts. No wonder he got rapped on the knuckles by the United Nations, an agency that has seldom spoken against a government with which it is working.

Worse, the relief effort seems to be tiring – at a point where it is needed the most. Assistance from within Pakistan is drying up and tired volunteers are at their wits’ end.

Whatever reservations one may have about our military leadership and their overall policy, jawans and junior officers of the Pakistan Army are doing everything in their power to reach out to people. It started as an unwanted duty for them but now in many individual cases it has become a matter of personal commitment. The problem is that they are just not enough. Over 100,000 troops are currently deployed in the zone but what is needed is one million. Pakistanis have responded with a zeal that has left the world stunned. But they seem to be tiring now, thinking that they have done whatever they could. Nothing could be more tragic than that. We need to keep reminding ourselves that it is only the tremors that are over, not the tragedy. That is just beginning.

Reader, count your blessings.

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