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Concern rises over lack of tents for Asia quake survivors
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A woman waits while her husband tries to get transportation out of Balakot, a village devastated by the quake.

Oct. 20, 2005

UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom

Relief workers trying to assist survivors of the South Asia earthquake are racing against time and the approach of a harsh winter.

New estimates by regional officials of the death toll from the Oct. 8 earthquake had jumped to at least 79,000 by Oct. 19, according to the Associated Press. But the real concern is for the survivors, according to Marvin Parvez, director of Church World Service Pakistan/Afghanistan.

“With the 2 to 3 million affected and homeless, the government and U.N. estimates that the affected families need over 600,000 shelter kits or tents,” he told United Methodist News Service.

“Currently, we have a little over 100,000 available in the supply chain, so you can see we have a huge gap between demand and supply here.”

In an Oct. 18 New York Times article, Andrew Macleod, the United Nations’ operations chief in Pakistan, said the problem was not the response from aid organizations but the size of the task. He added that “we need more winterized tents than exist in the world today.”

Parvez pointed out that in many of the regions affected by the earthquake, there was a window of only 15 to 20 days from Oct. 19 before winter sets in, “and this will increase the vulnerability of the children and the elderly.”

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Photo by Marianne Preus Jacobsen, NCA-ACT

Waiting for food: Two boys are eager to see what they will receive today.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is working with CWS Pakistan/Afghanistan and the International Blue Crescent to respond to the earthquake.

UMCOR’s parent agency, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, also is part of the Church of Pakistan’s Mission Partners Forum. The Church of Pakistan — the largest Protestant Church in Pakistan — is a union of the Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran and Presbyterian (Scottish) churches.

The earthquake was centered about 60 miles north of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, and its impact was felt as far east as New Delhi, India, and as far west as Kabul, Afghanistan. Devastation occurred in northern Pakistan and in both the Pakistani-controlled and Indian-controlled sections of Kashmir.

CWS relief efforts are being organized through its Pakistan offices in Karachi, Islamabad, Mansehra and Murree. The agency also is part of the Pak-Humanitarian Forum, a collaboration of international humanitarian and emergency response agencies in Pakistan. Members of the forum are going out in teams to assess needs.

On Oct. 13, CWS air-dropped shelter kits from army helicopters to some of the most affected but hard-to-reach areas in Battagram, including 365 kits in Allai. But such deliveries were stalled Oct. 14-15 because of security concerns and poor weather.

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Photo by Marianne Preus Jacobsen, NCA-ACT

The quake left this young Pakistani, who lives in Balakot, nothing but two bags with food and clothes.

CWS also has provided emergency food to families and will provide medical assistance to 100,000 people impacted by the quake — half in Azad Kashmir and half in the Northwest Frontier Province — through two health centers. According to Parvez, the health centers will provide immunization and first aid. The aid will focus on women, children and vulnerable families without food and shelter.

Church World Service’s office and health clinic in Mansehra were damaged by the quake but the clinic is now cleared, open and serving survivors needing medical care.

While truckloads of supplies continue to arrive in the town of 35,000 — where nearly all the houses were destroyed — the effort “is just a drop in ocean,” Parvez said.

He is concerned about reaching the more remote locations. The United Nations has estimated that only 30 to 40 percent of some 350 to 900 villages damaged by the earthquake have been inspected

“All of us have to move very fast to make sure that we don’t have more casualties,” he explained. “Besides this, if we can’t get aid out to the mountain villages, we will also see large numbers of people moving to displaced camps and public buildings down in the plains.”

Complicating efforts are the more than 500 aftershocks that have occurred since the earthquake, along with rain, hail and even snow in some areas, he noted.

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Photo by Marianne Preus Jacobsen, NCA-ACT

The inhabitants of Balakot have received assistance, but it is not the type of help they need. Tons of clothing cover the rubble in their town.

Parvez, who is of Methodist background, conveyed his “sincere thanks to fellow Methodists for all the support and cooperation.”

Kristin Sachen, UMCOR’s international disaster coordinator, reported that funds in the agency’s international disaster account are low and inadequate to respond to the crucial needs in Pakistan. “We’re really hoping that people will remember it in their Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings,” she added.

UMCOR cannot participate directly in rescue and recovery efforts in Pakistan but will continue to respond financially through Church World Service and other partner agencies, she said.

Another such partner is the Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action in India. CASA will target 10,000 of the most affected families in Kashmir and assist with winter clothing, utensils, blankets and tents, tarpaulins and tin sheets for temporary shelters.

“The heaviest burdens imposed by the earthquake have been on the womenfolk who have to look after the welfare of the entire family in an abnormal and adverse situation,” CASA reported.

Donations to the United Methodist relief effort can be marked for “UMCOR Advance #232000, Pakistan Earthquake,” and placed in church offering plates or sent to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, N.Y. 10087-9068. Contributions also can be made by phone at (800) 554-8583. If funds are intended for recovery in a specific region, that should be noted. More information is available at

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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