Report on Social and Economic Issues in Quake Hit Areas of Pakistan
Report on Long term Social and Economic issues in Quake Hit Areas
Facts & observations
Date: 22-january-2006 ,04-October-2006
Presentation to: Workers Education Research and Welfare Society of Pakistan
On the morning of 8th October, 2005 an earthquake of an intensity of 7.6 on the Richter scale struck the whole country, specifically northern districts of NWFP, Federal Capital and Azad Kashmir. The devastation was also caused on the other side of the border in Kashmir valley. The most affected districts reportedly are Abbotabad, Mensehra, Batagram in Hazara division and Shangla in Swat. Similarly Muzafarabad, Bagh and Rawalakot in Azad Kahsmir and federal capital were also hit badly by series of tremors. The epicentre of the earthquake was in the Hindu Kush Range somewhere between Mansehra and Muzaffarabad in the North nearly 100 kms of Islamabad. Nearly 90 thousand died, mostly children and women, hundreds of thousands are with serious or minor injuries, while approximately 3.5 million have lost their homes and property Most of these villages were also badly affected with the heavy snowfall and raining during December- January of this year making it one of the worst natural diaster in the world in terms of complexity and united nations said its more dangerous than Tsunami and Berlin airlift of post second world war.
Due to landslide and bad weather, most of the access routes to the remoter areas are blocked and inaccessible. Due to rain and hailstorm, the temperatures will continue to fall in the coming days and weeks, particularly in upper hilly areas of Mazafarabad and Bagh in AJK and in Hazara and Shangla, which may complicate and delay rapid relief efforts.
I am from political & Charity (trade union /socialist workers Party /peace activist) background worked actively for homeless in quake area District Rawalakot and District Bagh Azad Kashmir and Balakot NWFP, with volunteer teams headed by friends Mr Raja Sohail (Businessman from Birmingham), Mr Sardar Abid Hussain(Ex Chairman Pearl Valley Development Authority Rawalakot) and Mr Syed akhtar(Dubai based Businessman but resident of district Bagh) local businessmen & Philanthropists, who lost own business/house & some relatives in the disaster and Professor Muhammed Tariq former professor of English (now destroyed Balakot College),volunteer activists also helping victims in local area with money & food Our first efforts in Balakot Area(Professor Tariq & Team) were the emergency response to a grave danger of hunger starvation and immediate Tent shelter problem. Urgency of the situation changed with access & roads improving. , Imran Khan & Edhi welfare volunteers from Punjab & karachi were among first to reach Balakot, and with supplies of food/drinking water and warm clothes and blankets kept many families survive the two days of rains immediately after earthquake. Balakot( a city wiped out as if Hiroshima)
Eid gift distribution 5 November Districts Bagh & Rawalakot (vast scale destruction in rural areas): monetary issues for the local people were most important as most have lost their property, livelihood, cattle and belongings There was a lot of personal local & UK collection from our friends & family.
In form of monetary help especially for women Kids in far flung areas, I personally coordinated the plan to efficiently distribute the much needed cash three volunteers from Rawalpindi and one person from local area helped identify the needy families in villages in Rawalakot & Bagh areas.
Keeping in view previous knowledge (Raja Sohail Birmingham ) went to villages to support victims, and see their needs in terms of money, rather than queue for money which some political/social organizations are adopting to get publicity, money was delivered at door steps in concealed brown envelopes with 500,1000 rupees notes in denominations.
Muzzaffarabad(60-70% damage to Down Town and suburban villages)
19 & 20 November (Imran Khan Charity -UK)
The main purpose of visit was to visit the villages east bank of river neelum valley, to assess the Damage and loss in property and long term issues of social and economic need, none of volunteers or workers have ventured out towards the mountain tops which are not impossible to track, our team only took 3 hours to walk to the top of Mai Dhani(local name of the mountain) rocks have turned to cement coloured powder sand which increase the breathing problems and there are continuous landslides blocking ghori pateka road east bank of river neelum near cheela bhandi area . we visited different settlements upto a height of 3000ft..
The biggest problem for these families was drinking water, food supplies and using a make shift rope bridge to transport food & people across the mai dhani area for approx 900 families there was a water supply pipe line bringing spring water to houses, the quake damaged the pipes, at the moment women had to walk almost 3 miles to get to river bank to get unclean water. After our survey of area the problem was solved through fixing pipes there was a stock available and plumbers were sent to do the job with equipment.
The broken bridge has created a food & traveling problem for the area, inflatable boat temporary supplied by army is not a viable solution because of petrol & maintenance issues it cannot serve the needs of area, it will only cost about 2 thousand UK pounds to construct the proper bridge.
18 December (panja sahib) Shamlee District Battagram NWFP
500 families of Pushto/Punjabi speaking native Sikhs (religious minority in Pakistan), have been displaced from shamlee as the whole village was devastated, these women & children have been repatriated to Two holiest sites for Sikh religion Panja sahib & nankana sahib. Men folk have mostly returned to village to look after cattle & homes and start rebuilding, while the families are being looked after in relief camps located in vacant hostels for Sikh pilgrims from UK, Canada, America and India, the purpose of the visit was to talk to victims of disaster about their economic well being and look at the arrangement made by Pakistan government & Khalsa Aid UK (sikh Charity)
1-2 January muzzafarabad city
5-8 January District Bagh & rawalakot
12-15 January Balakot ,Ghari Habibullah, Dhani area Muzzaffarabad
18 January Balakot
Along with Syed Akhtar and professor Tariq made follow up visit of districts of AJK and Balakot,
Imran Khan Relief Fund
Imran khan (Ex cricketer, social worker and philanthropist of Pakistan) has established 10 sites of shelter villages in snow areas of Bagh ,2 in Dhani area muzzaffarabad and 2 tent villages in less cold Mansehra Area
Each site Consisting of 25 houses made from GI steel sheets, these resemble triangular shape tent structure, basic structure is made with strong iron pipes with steel sheet roof & walls with wooden doors, these are quake proof and cold proof with 6/7 member family staying in one. the administration of the shelter village is done by 5 member committee of elders of resident families, responsible for food distribution, health and hygiene and children welfare and education, this a good example of participatory inclusion of community these structures can be used in summer for reconstruction of houses each shelter accommodation costs about Rs 35000 or 350 UK pounds as they are being seriously overlooked for winterised tents & iron and steel sheets shelter resources IKRF does not get any foreign NGO or UN donor help and especially due to non availability of iron sheets or highly inflated prices in open market their estimates have increased by Rs 10000 which originally was Rs25000
While government estimates Rs 200000 or 2000 UK pounds for a shelter home
EDHI Welfare Foundation:
A well known relief and rescue charity organisation (initially started as free service substitute for St John’s Ambulance absence after partition of country) in Pakistan working for more than 50 years, Sattar Edhi termed as Father Teresa , Lord of gutters and Saint of Pakistan has devoted 60 years of his life to helping needy & destitute, his organization has experience of working in 14 major earthquakes of the world since 1973, his abhorrence for bureaucratic structure in NGO and wasteful expenditure, strings attached to foreign Aid helped him devise a grass root network with self help and income generation for slum dwellers. His one family one shelter scheme is costing Rs 12,000 or 120 UK pounds.
In carrying out all the relief and rehabilitation activity, most important factor was to devise a litmus test for economic indicators for the future well being of the people in the earth quake zone. I assessed the Economic situation and its fallout on interaction between stakeholders (People, Local Administration, Army, Government, NGOs, Foreign Donors) with two basic analytical techniques namely SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunity, threats) and PEST (political, socio-economic, cultural and technological challenges)
Observations & recommendations of the survey and studies:
Short to medium term rescue and relief:The army and other military organizations from around the world are in full flow, Nato are helping to reconstruct some roads and Cuban medical teams were hectically busy helping all, NGOs were essentially getting the run around by some locals but nevertheless work has been done. Criticism is rife but in the overall picture is that as long as people were been helped by whatever means then so be it, that’s what counts. The scale of the disaster would test any country irrespective of wealth and power and Pakistan and its people had taken it upon itself to attempt the best they could, under the difficult circumstances.
Organization praised by people for their help & support are Pakistan army Turkish army, Spanish & Italian army Imran Khan volunteers are very active getting supplies, NGO goal in Bagh (malloot area), toilet facilities with Oxfam signs are on road sides, Edhi foundation and Islamic charities from UK and religious outfits are doing good job.
American & British Chinooks helicopters flying supplies & patients & lots of doctors from up & down Pakistan in field hospitals in mansehra and Abbottabad two major towns near quake Zone.
Many teams of Cuban doctors and relief workers are in the area. but Cuban are only capable of setting up field hospitals and medicines.
Reconstruction of roads and Bridges
The only organized team of engineers and Construction workers in Rawalakot and Bagh is Pakistan/Spanish army. Unfortunately its resources are overstretched and not sufficient to size of destruction, Nato forces in Arja area are not concentrating on relief, they are busy building roads and bridges before 29 January 2006, the planned date for their departure from Pakistan
Self Help and Community spirit of People of Pakistan:
The people were grateful to the ordinary Pakistani for the amount of help and love they had shown them after the earthquake Pakistanis had arrived in their own transport with goods to aid the victims even quicker than the authorities and agencies put together, not just to camps but in many of the difficult places to get to. Encountering massive traffic jams from the endless streams of trucks arriving with goods and shelters albeit through treacherous mountain passes, there seemed no alternative routes
Pakistanis were termed as the greatest Heroes of this tragedy by Kashmiris themselves every village every street was grateful to the ordinary Pakistanis and Pakistan army to mobilize a gigantic relief effort before outside world realized the gravity of the situation, about 200000 volunteers, doctors paramedics, engineers, relief and rescue workers, truck drivers from Pakistan spent the whole month of Ramadan and after in the Quake area
Peoples courage bravery & sense of brotherhood, has many times brought tears of pride & admiration in eyes, their self respect & resilience although they do not hold any worldly possessions, people lose everything yet help others who are even less fortunate than others
People have lost their shops, offices, businesses, jobs which has created a ripple effect in the society, I have met professors in balakot, medical students, Bank officers, grade18 officers from bagh to a local meter reader from muzaffarabad who have lost every thing are living like refugees, yet given a chance wanting to go back and do something, I interviewed Mr Sheikh Rasheed(local farmer and fruit grower) of Chakaar & Sardar Abid of Rawalakot who lost their businesses yet helping others.
Livelihood experts could do well by listening to local needs Craftsman and handicrafts
Businesses people, indigence products, which can be revived quickly with micro credit Finance committees of women in villages
Government sponsored support of Rs 25000 for rebuilding house is not enough and it has not reached every one and there seem to be no transparent way of distribution.
It is also related to long term livelihood issues of the survivors, before October 8 most of the areas were dependent on foreign remittances sent by family members working in Gulf states, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman where stringent labour laws prevent greater labour mobility & flexibility, most will not return to their Jobs abroad. most male family members work in different parts of Pakistan as daily wage labourers. These two categories have become jobless due to deaths in the family, looking after kids and issues of extended families. None of the cultivatable land has been used in farming wheat or other subsistence crops after the earthquake. Any local relief, reconstruction and rubble cleanup labour jobs have been taken by non-local afghan labourers from Rawalpindi & Peshawer afghan refugee camps
It is heartbreaking to see orphans 6/7 year olds asking for money on road sides, these kids are our future. There is a general attitude in some sections of society to use this as professional begging (I hate to use this word for the situation) opportunity , we saw families in unaffected murree kohala area make temporary sitting place to keep kids on the roadside for day time to gain benefit yet disappear before sunset , these things can ruin the future well being of Kashmiri people. What they need is not hand outs but practical help to rebuild their lives & livelihoods, self help and assistance is the key to rehabilitation
Family as an Economic unit:
Issues of cultural & social sensitivity are not being addressed as discussed above, households where male head of the family has died, women have problem in claiming inheritance and relief compensation for rebuilding. Other issues would be long-term employment, livelihood of families headed by women, property disputes as women are rarely mentioned in property documents
Long term Impact on children
Many women and children had died as many of the men folk were away working in big cities and they returned after making journeys, normally a few hours, but two days on the mountain passes, to find that they lost a wife, a daughter, a son or a whole family. They are places, which are still not visited. Whole families have been wiped out and even villages totally drowned by the earth,
Schools with children lying beneath the ruins were the hardest to absorb- books and shoes lay across the ground. I interviewed a young girl who spoke good English as she stood on a building which overlooked the river and spoke of what she saw and how she managed to get home on that fateful day from school but she had a smile and a strength that I would find hard to acquire
Mental trauma & handicapped and long term health and social issues
after effects of Earthquake has caused a big health problems for families, especially kids are scared of building and structures and people traumatized are wondering around aimlessly, disorientated and incoherent memories with fears of disaster coming back. There are hundred thousands of walking wounded, and kids with flies & germs over their wounds. Skin diseases & itching scabies and rashes are almost 90% in kids due to bedding and clothing hygiene problems recent snows and two spells of inclement weather after new year sub zero temperatures are making living in tents impossible specially people in 4 ft snow in maloot area and Ganges peak area of deerkot, children are suffering of pneumonia and chest infections, cough and in danger of serious causalities. those who lost arms and legs have been permanently disabled, dependent on others for rest of their lives.
Children and women trafficking for bonded Labour and sex trade:
This was a major issue in early days of panic & confusion after quake as fears of repeat of mistakes of tsunami survivors were fresh in people’s minds. Army & government had a major clamp down on identities of relatives claiming sick & injured women and children from Hospitals. Strict checking of private cars passing through quake areas
Faith based organization:
Although Islamic parties were very effective in their grass root implementation rescue efforts, people praised them for swift action heading teams of ordinary Pakistani volunteers to track and supply food and relief items to far flung areas, their main focus is now turning to publicity, recruitment and consolidation of bases in quake areas
As for Christian NGOs from America, religious and missionary propaganda literature was found in many Boxes of Food Aid
Political parties: these are just a show of strength in towns with leaders photo opportunities. Ordinary tents inhabitable due to cold weather inscribed with party political slogan to show mere presence in the area
UN institutions are the worst culprits in distribution fiascos, food being distributed in kohala area not affected by earth quake and just dumped on the road side maloot area people had to carry it few miles along road, UN food distribution are never without problem & mayhem, “survival of the fittest”. The drivers taking aid did not know the area & roads resulting in accidents.
Lack of Community participation in rehabilitation: listening to people & observing working of foreign NGOs. Rather then local staff for coordination and implementation French, Dutch and European agencies & NGOs are heavily reliant on afghan staff for local operations due to their earlier engagement in Afghanistan, 90% of these are only conversant in English & Dari (Persian) limited knowledge of Urdu no knowledge of local area or language and often not enough sensitivity to local (highly conservative religious) customs & tradition for example lack of privacy for women in tent villages and frequent visitation by these foreign delegations to gather information which locals do not feel comfortable with. The notion of “Big cars and fat paychecks and corruption” is rampant in locals. There is a huge cultural & language barrier between locals & staff members this difference of culture & background is not very visible to European bosses in NGO, which hinders the smooth working & results in wastage & pilferages like tents being given to officials as gifts. Truck loads of UN/ICRC goods being discovered from Government ministers’ personal warehouses
Economic Impact of Aid distribution:
Aid distribution without long Term planning is a result of lack the vision & technical knowledge e.g Shelter are being created by organization at lower road side with tin sheets (H11 refugee camp Islamabad one example) when people can live in tents as the winter is not bad at lower ground, these shelters can be effective life savers at snow areas, tents do not sustain snow fall.
. For example Pakistan Army erected a ropes bridge in village Mai Dhandi but due to technical incompetence the bridge gave way killing three people who were crossing Army moved out of the area soon afterward, there was no sustained planning for food supplies for example There was a food supply rather a photo opportunity for one day from UN world food program, they took the pictures & they never came back.
Contracts commission and Kickbacks:
Corruption is considered part of normal life in Pakistan On the basis of employment within these foreign NGOs procurement & purchasing has totally being monopolized by Afghan/ Pakistani companies related to these individuals with insider information, no accountabilities & checks in place for purchasing & distributing staffs other than their own honesty rather than generating a economic activity in local area and creating jobs for local unemployed and skilled in quake hit areas, lavish offices & luxury cars of these contractors have suddenly sprung up in quake hit areas & Islamabad. While local people complain of being not given jobs just aid and no involvement in relief work e.g unloading of relief goods. Non-resident afghan refugees especially in Balakot creating resentment in locals have taken local labourer works
Price inflation & substandard materials
I can quote two examples of substandard water proof plastic sheets procured for tents, and GI tin sheets for shelters at inferior quality Rs 350/sheet being supplied at more than Rs 500/sheet, it will not withstand the weather in winter. Food price inflation is 500% in some areas
Diaster Situation One Year On:
I wrote in an article on 22nd of February 2006,Quote - “Long term economic planning in disaster area is necessary to cope with challenges which lay ahead and some Relief organizations lack vision in implementation and Technical knowledge and local knowledge to be effective. Army is good in logistics and rescue but long term aid they will need local knowledge and volunteer support. The need is to prioritize & strategize the situation with local & volunteer support at every level. Otherwise we will be creating a long-term problem. The biggest flaw is the disparity in food & medical supplies, some people have more than their fair share of aid, others none at all There is a need to guarantee fully transparent & fully accountable distribution of resources, Social issues relating to education and employment will also complicate matters once the winter is over, immediate danger of cold and starvation subsides there will be a need of advice from locals themselves in livelihood, dependency, economic impact of breakup of the family structure which considered a social safety net for poorest of poor in a third world country like Pakistan.”-Unquote
I was skeptical of the centrally planned military bureaucracy which was even hindering the work of self funded UN missions and Foreign and Local NGOs, an earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) was established, with retired army personnel as staff rather than local unemployed, like any other bureaucratic fiasco Unfortunately my worst fears were proved right.
with headlines regularly appearing in local newspapers making grim reading.
Demonstrations in Balakot against delay in relocation from dangerous city (lack of any action on part of government)
Kidnapp of women & children from relief camps(continues to this day)
Lack of funds for reconstruction (despite US$ 6.5 Billion grants & loans)
ERRA officials and army demanding bribes for Compensation cheques to be handed over to survivors.
ERRA chairman accused of personal embezzlement of funds.
UN expressing concerns over allocation and distribution of funds.
Government of Norway, writing off a bad debt given for Education in effected areas.
UK accusing British Muslim charities of using funds for terrorism (although denied later).
USA banning Jammat ud Dawa relief activities on pretext of its affiliation with lakhar taiba,
Jammat ud Dawa & Jamat Islami banning women social workers (both local and foreigners) working in earth quake area.
India accusing Pakistan of cross border terrorism after Mumbai blasts after reactivation of camps of religious outfits.
Locals accusing Government of rigging the Legislative assembly election to engineer land slide victory for right wing Muslim conference (a satellite party of Military government in Pakistan), MMA (alliance of hardliner religious parties, trying to cash in their relief work activities) and MQM (non local ethnic outfit of Karachi based Urdu speaking mohajirs (immigrants from India)
Its evident that military government which championed relief work as its success story, has yet again miserably failed the survivors of the earthquake, but more worrying is the fact that this failure of the government also means alienation of local population from ideology of “Kashmir is integral part of Pakistan” and the failure will not help the long term peace and stability of Kashmir, Pakistan and India, the peace process and the development of South Asia as a whole.
Special Gratitute To following Friends for their invaluable Support
Haq Nawaz Qureshi- Nation Records UK
Raja Sohail-Birmingham & Dixy Fried Chicken Pakistan
Professor Muhammed Tariq & his colleagues in Balakot
Syed Akhtar & Imran Khan Team
Ikhlaq and Imran Khan UK Team
Abdul Sattar Edhi
Medicines Sans Frontiers-Belgium
Shaista Aziz- Oxfam UK
Ummah Welfare Trust- Balakot & Bradford UK
Love and respect to all our hosts in Bagh,Arja(especially the kids) and Balakot
Oxfam Press Release – According to international aid organization Oxfam, more than 1.8 million persons face a second winter in makeshift shelters and tents. In a report entitled Keeping Recovery on Course it pointed out that “the scale of the catastrophe, difficult mountainous terrain, poor infrastructure, extreme weather conditions, problems with disseminating public information, as well as gaps in support for some vulnerable groups, have hindered the pace of reconstruction. As a result, many are still at risk with snow already falling in one of the highest regions in the world.” The report, quoting Pakistani authorities, says that “only 17 per cent of the 450,000 affected households have begun building permanent homes. Oxfam estimates at least 80 per cent of the remaining families, equivalent to 1.8 million people, are still living in temporary shelters with the rest staying with friends and relatives. Over 40,000 people are known to be in tents in official camps. Thousands of others are believed to be in unofficial camps and tents close to their home villages.”Says Farhana Faruqi Stocker from Oxfam International, “With snow already falling, this winter seems to have arrived early. Besides materials that will strengthen their homes against the harsh conditions, people in temporary shelter in rural and mountain areas need sustained access to safe heating and other essential items… When we see that one year after Hurricane Katrina, the world’s richest nation – the US – is still struggling with the reconstruction of the areas affected, it is no surprise that Pakistan has faced difficulties in the recovery across a much more difficult terrain.” It is matter of concern that there is still no government support for rural survivors who lost their land during the earthquake to rebuild their lives.