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Kashmir earthquake - one year on


Emergency shelter, Muzaffarabad

On October 8 2005 a devastating earthquake ripped through vast areas of northern Pakistan and India. In the particularly badly-hit province of Jammu Kashmir in Pakistan, SOS Children worked tirelessly to help bring the survivors to safety, provide emergency aid and care for those children orphaned by one of the worst natural disasters of recent time.

The disaster led to the death of tens of thousands of people, injured many thousands more and destroyed much of the area’s infrastructure. In the first weeks and months that followed, the Pakistani government, local and international aid organisations were faced with an enormous challenge. SOS Children supported the survivors with the provision of material aid, including tents, mattresses, blankets for temporary shelter, dried food and water to help keep up strengths and building materials to help shore up damaged buildings.

Over 1,100 waterproof tents were distributed, of which 100 served as an emergency shelter for survivors in Muzaffarabad, 200 were used to set up 25 tented schools in Ghari Dopatta, and others were distributed to families in need. Before the earthquake, there were 11,500 schools in Kashmir; 10,000 were destroyed.

children drawing, SOS Emergency centre Rawalpindi

Thanks to its ‘Search and Rescue’ team, the charity also worked hard to find and take in any unaccompanied children and, if needed, placed them in the long-term care of SOS families. Shortly after disaster struck, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf declared in an interview that “SOS Children’s Villages is the best custodian of our Kashmiri children”, and appointed SOS Children legal guardian of all unaccompanied children.

Since then, many children have been reunited with their families, but where this was not possible, there has still been a happy ending. Of the children who were orphaned as a result of the earthquake, 224 have now found a new home with SOS Children: in the SOS Children's Villages in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Dhodial and Faisalabad, at the emergency centre in Lahore and in Rawalpindi at the SOS reception centre and newly-founded youth home.

There are, however, many more children who need support following the earthquake and in order to care for these vulnerable children SOS Children plans to build a new village in Islamabad and another in either Jammu Kashmir or in the North West Frontier Province; however, the search for a suitable plot of land in this area could still take many months due to the devastation caused by the quake.

Reconstruction work, Chikar

The town of Muzaffarabad and the surrounding area were particularly badly hit by the earthquake, which included damage to an SOS Children’s Village, due to open the following week. Demolition of the village began on 1 July and will take four months to complete as no explosions can be used; the land is too unstable following the earthquake. Youth homes will be constructed for older children from surrounding villages on this site. With the land so unstable, reconstruction of schools, health facilities, houses and administration buildings in the area is also taking some time. Frustration and fear of the coming winter are widespread among the people, as many of them are forced to live in the ruins that were once their home.

Heavy monsoon rains and landslides in recent months have also forced around 43,000 people to leave their home and return to the aid camps. SOS Children has set up hundreds more tents in these camps to provide shelter to some of these families.

Reuniting families - a child's story

Ishfaq is just one of the children found by the SOS Search and Rescue team. Read his story.

Relevant Countries: Pakistan.

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