Saturday, December 03, 2005

Quake survivors victims again

Winter is almost here in the U.S., but for the quake survivors of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province winter means more than just a threat of sky-high heating bills...

For these already devastated Pakistanis it means foreshadowed serious illness and death resulting from inadequate shelter or, in some cases, no shelter at all during the coldest months of the year.

After losing an estimated 87,000 family members, friends and neighbors in the Oct. 8, 2005 earthquake, much of Pakistan's North West Frontier and disputed Kashmir population, as well as neighbors in India's disputed Kashmir, were left homeless or with sub-standard living conditions. The temperature right now in Balakot, Pakistan (Elevation: 3215 ft / 980 m, near the quake epicenter) is 58F and it will plunge to as low as 39F by tomorrow.

The Seattle Times states, "Pakistan's army said it was constructing 5,000 shelters a day out of corrugated metal for the 3.5 million people left homeless amid fears of a second wave of deaths as conditions worsen in the coming weeks... In Islamabad, Darren Boisvert, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, said 420,000 tents have been distributed in Pakistan but "90 percent are not winterized.

"Boisvert said relief efforts have focused on the highest mountain villages, rather than the hundreds of thousands living in non-winterized tents in refugee camps lower down. He said 5,000 tents that are adequate for winter have been distributed to those above the snow line, and another 5,000 will be distributed by Dec. 12."

Winter in this part of the country means sub-freezing temperatures, rain and snow; remember the Donner Party of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the winter of 1846-47. These "small, white tents" were a great solution and work well most of the year, but now they need added insulation to prevent cold-related ailments such as pneumonia.

WNYC News reported, "Senator Hillary Clinton says she is bewildered by the lack of response from people in the West. The senator, attending a fundraiser November 28 at the Asia Society, said donor fatigue and the absence of any Western tourists in the region has contributed to the problem." On the bright side, "New Mexico employees of a Seattle firm were among a team of 30 Americans who spent Thanksgiving week in northern Pakistan building shelters to house more than 1,000 homeless earthquake victims. They also helped build hospitals and schools in the area," counters New Mexico Business Weekly.

This morning I found a Design for a Winterized Home, modular in construction and made up of blocks of interlocking modules, submitted by Ashfaq A. Khan on the Pakistan Earthquake 2005 Web site. If you have any ideas in the form of what you can actually provide, I'm sure that blog would be interested.

It's going to be very difficult to help, or even to reach, the homeless and the lonely tent dwellers with supplies once the snow starts falling in the mountainous regions. It's either "now or never" for the world's great humanitarians (U.S., Europe, Middle-East) to reset their priorities and consider Pakistan more than just a political pawn for launching attacks.