Aid Effort Perseveres Despite Increasingly Bad Weather
Temperatures hover between -2 and 10 degrees Celsius, the ground alternates between frozen solid and a sea of mud, the number of reported pneumonia cases has tripled, and, to make matters worse, it's started snowing. Yet, international aid organization Action Against Hunger (Also known as Acion contre la Faim or ACF) continues to fight against the weather and transportation nightmares to ensure that the Pakistani survivors of the South Asian earthquake will make it through the winter.
Present in Pakistan since the day following the 7.6 earthquake, ACF has been working in the Allai and Kaghan Valleys in the north of Pakistan, providing shelter, water treatment and sanitation facilities, and food aid for the past two months, while issuing warnings that the impending winter would bring horrific conditions. Now that winter has arrived, ACF is scrambling to make sure that as many families as possible have adequate supplies to make it through the winter.
With last week's heavy rains and snow, the road from Balakot to Jared is now blocked by landslides, cutting off our team once more from the main road and once more impeding our shipment of aid.. Yet all actors are working as much as they can, whenever and wherever is possible, despite of this weather," — Loan Tran Thanh, head of ACF's mission in Pakistan.
Because of the harsh winter conditions, much of the population in the Allai Valley has been moving down -- away from their homes in the mountains -- into camps set up at lower altitudes. However, much of the population of the Kaghan Valley has instead chosen to stay on the mountains, the higher altitudes subjecting them to harsher weather, and making it more difficult to reach the population.
Still, Action Against Hunger is traveling by helicopter and truck to these populations, monitor their conditions, and provide as much assistance as possible. ACF is replacing inadequate tents with both well-insulated tents and more permanent shelter material (tin roofing, cinder blocks, plastic sheeting), as well as providing safe stoves for families to use to cook and heat. ACF is also building latrines and sanitation facilities in several camps and areas, an essential part of the aid efforts as more and more cases of disease are reported.
However, the worst is still to come. This winter is expected to be one of the harshest in years, making transportation dangerous as the snow gets deeper and temperatures plummet. Action Against Hunger calls on the international community to continue to help the humanitarian effort, especially as conditions deteriorate.
Action Against Hunger is a non-governmental, non-profit, non-religious organization providing immediate assistance and long-term relief to children, women, and men suffering from the consequences of man-made and natural disasters. Action Against Hunger has been a world leader in the treatment of malnutrition since 1979, and has programs in more than 40 countries around the world focusing on nutrition, food security, water/sanitation, and basic health.
Action Against Hunger, which had been operational in Pakistan until 2004, re-entered the country and immediately began providing assistance days after the October 2005 earthquake. ACF is now working in the areas surrounding Battagram and Balakot, distributing nutritional rations and shelter items, and working to rehabilitate water and sanitation infrastructures.
Action Against Hunger is currently assisting in areas affected by the earthquake with emergency airplane deliveries of food for distribution, nutritional BP5 biscuits, water and sanitation equipment, and other nonfood items, as well as emergency water and sanitation programs (distributions of clean water followed by rehabilitation of destroyed water systems and other infrastructure).