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Earthquake survivors still living on the edge

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey/ACT

A man unloads relief supplies provided by Church World Service/ACT from a Pakistan Army helicopter in Banna, Pakistan.
Nov. 30, 2005

By United Methodist News Service* 

Winter weather has left hundreds of thousands of South Asian earthquake survivors still without proper shelter, according to relief organizations.

As a consequence, the first cold-related deaths were reported Nov. 29 by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Two children died of pneumonia and a man died of hypothermia, according to the United Nations.

The Oct. 8 earthquake killed an estimated 80,000 people and left up to 3 million homeless. Snow has started to block delivery of relief supplies by helicopter or road to the affected villages in the Himalayas.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is working with Church World Service to assist earthquake survivors, particularly in northern Pakistan and Kashmir.

Another emerging problem, according to Marvin Parvez, CWS Pakistan-Afghanistan regional director, is that many of the emergency tents already distributed are not winterized, prompting some to light fires inside the tents. In Maiddan, a village north of Islamabad destroyed by the earthquake, two children have died because of a tent fire, he reported.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey/ACT

A man walks through a "tent city" supported by Church World Service/ACT outside Balakot, Pakistan.
“Many of these survivors have never lived in tents, have no knowledge of the fire hazards facing them, and they’re not being given basic fire prevention instructions or any kind of fire-extinguishing equipment,” Parvez said Oct. 28. “It only takes one candle.”

CWS is urging all nongovernmental agencies responding in Pakistan “to work together to at least give the survivors basic safety instructions.” With offices throughout Pakistan, CWS is coordinator of the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum

In Washington, Donna Derr, director of the CWS Emergency Response Program, said basic fire-extinguishing equipment should be part of tent or shelter supplies. CWS is pursuing additional resources for alternative shelter options and additional heating equipment and for solutions to the fire hazard concerns.

On Nov. 5, CWS — working with Finnchurchaid, Norwegian Church Aid and Great Britain’s Christian Aid — distributed a donation from Finland’s Ministry of the Interior that provided blankets, sweaters and enough winterized tents and heaters to shelter 15,000 people.

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 or online at If funds are intended for recovery in a specific region, that should be noted. More information is available at

*Church World Service contributed information to this report.

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

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