October 2 2006
Earthquake in Pakistan: 1 Year On
(2 October 2006) - On 8 October 2005, a devastating earthquake shook vast areas of the Pakistani province Jammu Kashmir, where the situation remains dire. In addition to providing immediate material aid, SOS Children's Villages has concentrated on taking in and caring for orphaned and unaccompanied children. A total of 224 children are now receiving care at various facilities of SOS Children's Villages in Pakistan.
In the first weeks and months after the disaster - which killed tens of thousands of people, injured thousands of others and destroyed a significant part of the infrastructure - state, local and international aid organisations were faced with an enormous logistical challenge. SOS Children's Villages helped by providing material aid (tents, mattresses, blankets, building materials, dried food, water, etc.) and made a great effort to provide refuge for abandoned children and, if needed, to place them in the organisation's long-term care.
Since then, 224 children who were orphaned as a result of the earthquake have found a new home at various SOS Children's Villages facilities in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Dhodial and Faisalabad. The child aid organisation intends to build another children's village either in Jammu Kashmir or in the North West Frontier Province, but the search for a suitable plot of land could still take months. In addition, the construction of another children's village is planned in Islamabad.
The town of Muzaffarabad and its surroundings were hit particularly hard by the earthquake, and the reconstruction of schools, health facilities, houses and administration buildings has either come to a standstill or is making very slow progress. "The detailed reconstruction planning has still not been finalized. Due to the substantial requirement for technical staff and skilled labour, the actual implementation will be extremely challenging and may take fifteen years or more," said Safia Awan, Vice-President of SOS Children's Villages of Pakistan.
Heavy monsoon rains and landslides in recent months have also forced tens of thousands of people to leave their home towns and seek refuge in the camps in Muzaffarabad, which had already been abandoned. SOS Children's Villages again provided tents and distributed corrugated sheet roofing to those affected. "A sense of hopelessness has set in among the people. Fear of another winter without proper shelter is a worry. After the monsoon rains, over 43,000 people were forced to leave their dwellings and they still remain in the camps. The forthcoming winter will be even more difficult and hazardous for the population," said Safia Awan. "Schools and basic health units in the remote areas are scarce. Food with low nutritional value compounded with deplorable hygienic conditions is extremely alarming; the harmful effects on children are detrimental."
About SOS Children's Villages:
SOS Children's Villages, a private and non-governmental and non-denominational social development organisation for children, is active in 132 countries and territories. 444 children's villages and 354 youth facilities provide more than 60,000 children/youths with a new home. More than 137,000 children/youths attend SOS Kindergartens, SOS Schools and SOS Vocational Training Centres. Around 385,000 people benefit from the services provided by SOS Medical Centres and 230,000 people benefit from SOS Social Centres. SOS Children's Villages also helps in situations of crisis and disaster through emergency relief programmes.
SOS Children's Villages has been carrying out humanitarian work in Pakistan since 1975 and currently operates seven children's villages, six youth facilities, seven SOS Schools, four SOS Vocational Training Centres, and two SOS Medical Centres.
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