Humanitarian Man

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Update from the hospital in Garha Habib Ulla (KCH)

Everyone associated with the hospital is living and working outside in tents. The hospital's medical facilities and hostels are completely compromised. The standing structures will be torn down soon, so as not to continue to be a safety issue. The buildings will all have to be re-built ASAP, even during the winter months.

KCH is one of the primary examples of the need for shipping containers to work out of. There are no sterile environments strong enough for the doctors to work in once the buildings start being torn down. It will then be nearly impossible with all the dust and debris to conduct surgery without some type of non-tent temporary structure.

We have scoured the dry ports from Karachi to Peshawar and there are, at this point, no shipping containers to be had. Once they do start importing them, they will be incredibly expensive. Although Pakistani citizens have been amazing in their charity and personal sacrifice to give to their fellow countrymen, many businesses have been price gouging like mad! Unfortunately, most major NGO's and the UN have no choice but to purchase materials at the asking price in a crisis.

Please consider giving specifically to KCH by donating through Paypal on this site.

I had the chance to view this week's Asian issues of Time and Newsweek. The earthquake made the cover of both magazines, but I felt that they really missed the point. Both feature stories surrounded the idea of Pakistan and India being brought closer together politically through the earthquake. I realize that this is a major possibility (at least in the near term), but speculating and writing shallow anecdotes about it while 3 million people in the region are homeless, injured and barely surviving in the freezing weather seems crass.

The winter is approaching. Four days ago, I observed the first snow caps on the mountains. We have already had quite a bit of freezing rain and hail where I am. The majority of the 3 million left homeless from this catastrophe are in the mountains. The snow is coming and very, very few are ready.

One of the things that we need badly right now is shipping containers or other relatively easily moved semi-permanent shelters that are stronger than tents. I have been in talks with Save the Children here who are doing a magnificent job under the circumstances, and they, along with a number of other organizations, have stated this is one of the top five critical needs right now.

In any humanitarian crisis, two elements of infrastructure are usually constant: tent cities and distribution centers. The problem in this particular humanitarian disaster is that it has been almost impossible for many groups to set up proper distribution centers in the most effected areas due to the fact that there are no structures left standing! Many organizations have been forced to store relief goods in trucks in the affected area while organizing distribution; however this normally leads to a precarious security situation as eventually the trucks get looted.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Teams are leaving

Today a number of teams are leaving from the place I am staying to a number of directions.

-We are sending a small team of additional nurses to Bach

-A couple groups are headed to KCH. Nurses, paramedic/fire rescue and basic helpers with a van full of food and supplies

-An assortment of people have been attending to the local Pakistani military hospital which has patients from all over the northern areas flown in. The chief of the hospital welcomed us with opened arms and gave us free reign to help in any way.

I meet with a Korean contingent yesterday that has been in Kashmir for four or five days and were on their way out. They said aid and supplies where slowly starting to get there, but it was still a very large crisis situation. The weather has been a serious hindrance for much of the air support last week.

This morning I walked down to the lower army soccer field that is being used as a casualty collection point and airlift point for bringing resources to the effected areas.
Helicopters are in and out of this site all day; the assortment of people and helicopters is amazing. This morning I spotted medical soldiers from five countries at the site waiting to get on one of the helicopters that was dropping off casualties. While I was at the airlift site, a civilian car came and reported a very bad road accident a few miles away along the truck supply route, a couple of people with head injuries showed up looking for help a few minuets later. Life is fragile and infrastructure is weak here.

We are all doing what we can and more here, don’t believe that this situation is anywhere near under control. The amount of tent cities and resources needed just to survive this winter is astounding, and the process of re-building won’t even start till next summer.

Please consider giving now!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Thank you to the people who have donated

Thank you to the people who have donated through paypal via the Secured Path website!

Much more is needed. I have made contact with most of the expatriate local community doing work from Kashmir south, and I am in contact with a number of the smaller NGO’s that are doing the real effective work, thanks to their knowledge of the culture, language, and lack of need for administrative support like many of the large charities require.

All funds raised are taken directly to the site of the need and given to families and small groups doing the most effective job, there is no middle man percentage or trickle down through levels of organizational bureaucracy.

Please choose to give now.

News from KCH

News from KCH is that the town where the hospital is located is more than 70 % flattened. They continued to be overwhelmed with patients and their supplies are low. International aid is starting to reach the area but no concentrated outside aid has reached the hospital.

A number of volunteers from the local and expatriate community are heading there in the next few hours and days with basic living supplies and some food.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The British Airways flight I arrived on from London had about 45 Pakistani and Pakistani/British citizens on it, the rest where all relief and rescue workers with a fair number of journalists from the BBC.

The Islamabad International Airport is full of military and civilian cargo aircraft delivering aid, the military side of the airport (Chaklala) was full of US military planes with tons of aid.

Helicopters where loading and flying off into the northern areas. A good number of US and Pakistani helicopters are utilizing the soccer field across the street from the Murreee School to load aid and unload the injured and dead.

The noise of the helicopters so extremely low over the school has brought back memories in some of the children of the day they where attacked by terrorists and the army was searching the forest by helicopter. The earthquake has a few of the children still quite shaken but all are keenly aware of the devastation. There are plans for them to assist in direct aid to hospitals etc..

The road to Murree from Islamabad is jammed packed with trucks and cars overloaded with bedding and supplies trying to get to the northern areas. It rained day before yesterday and A LOT of people lost there lives and were injured on the roads… as if things were not bad enough.

Monday, October 10, 2005

IRIN Reports the earthquake caused around four million people to be homeless.

According to UNICEF, almost one in every five people in the affected zone is a child under the age of five and nearly half are younger than 18.

Find family members in the disaster zone

I don't think this will work so well for the tens of thousands of computer illiterate village people affected by the quake; however I am sure it will help a few thousand with relatives in Europe and the US.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today launched a South Asia Earthquake website to help people exchange information about family members in the disaster zone. People seeking news of relatives can consult the list of those who have registered and search for names.
ICRC Family Links

Balakot Update

Kunar Christian Hospital needs your assistance.

Words from Bach Christian Hospital Pakistan (near Abbottabad):

Families of medical staff at the hospital are safe, but are dealing with a steady stream of medical casualties. The groups associated with this hospital have a large relief effort mobilizing in the area and further north.

"I have just returned from one of the main cities, Abbottabad, where people are still struggling to come to terms with their loss.

The city is functioning as normal but people look shaken and bewildered. An estimated 60 people were killed and 300 hundred injured.

Many people are still trapped underneath the seven huge buildings that collapsed under the force of the earthquake including a public school, a hotel and a mosque.

I saw people scrambling around with their bare hands trying to reach any possible survivors trapped under the debris of the mosque. They were utterly desperate.

The main hospital in the city, the Ayub Hospital has been completely evacuated, as the building is no longer safe to care for patients in.

The sick and injured are being cared for in huge tents that have been set up outside the hospital, it is a bizarre sight."

E-mail from Murree, Pakistan:

The situation in Murree is very positive. There have been very few collapsed buildings, although several buildings are showing significant cracks. In almost every direction out of Murree there is much greater devastation. The Murree hospitals are over full, this is primarily with those who are being brought in by helicopter. Also being brought in by helicopter to the field across from school are some of the bodies of the dead (military and civilian) – mostly being then sent by road to their home towns, but some unidentified ones being buried in Murree.

Kunar Christian Hospital Pakistan

Words from Kunar Christian Hospital (near Balakot):

Hospital buildings are damaged, everyone in tents and outside.

Hospital is overflowing with patients coming from the many devastated towns just around the hospital compound and from further away.

Medical supplies will be gone in the next 24 to 48 hours.

If you are a NGO or other medical group going to work in the area please direct resources to this hospital!

If you would like to donate or direct other friends to donate please do so through PayPal on the website or send checks to:

Path Defense
Earthquake Fund
PO Box 824072
Dallas, TX 75382

Nick Bryant : Balakot, Pakistan : 1604GMT

This town where I am has been completely destroyed. The stalls and the shops in the bazaar are now just a pile of rubble.

Behind that a boys school and the local police station. All now gone too.

A Pakistani general has said that 90% of this town has been destroyed. There is no infrastructure to help rebuild right now BBC

"They're talking about a lost generation here in Balakot where most of the town has been levelled."

"These are very harrowing scenes across the town. I've seen literally hundreds of people being pulled from the wreckage of Balakot.

Perhaps eighty percent of the buildings in the town centre have been destroyed and the fear is there are many more bodies to come out. People haven't given up.

There's no organised effort to bring in tents or food supplies by the government"

-Andrew North Balakot, Pakistan-

News from Kunar Christian Hospital

Saturday – Villages have been wiped out. Many walls have been damaged and many doors broken. No one in our family was hurt and neither were any of the staff. The walls in one of our chief physicians apartment have been very badly damaged. There is no water connection to our home but the electricity has been restored and telephones are now working. We have spent all day out of the buildings and have been busy wiping, and splinting limbs as strings of patients rolled in all day. The staff have been wonderful in helping patients. The after shock tremors have continued 12 hours later. All of the staff are in our home tonight as it is very unpredictable. Very heavy rain with hail has made the situation even harder, both for the ones who have homes and those who have nowhere to go. Many school children have been buried in many schools. The houses of two of our staff members have been damaged and one daughter has died – that is all the damage we know of at the moment. It will be clear in the morning how we can be of help other than providing first aid.

Sunday – Since the earthquake on Saturday morning we have felt continuous after shocks. Even as I write this there are little tremors and I have to keep running outside. The first assignment of the damage has been reassessed and there has been some severe damage to the buildings. There are huge cracks in the walls of the hospital, the nursing hostel and other apartments. Our house is the only building on the compound that doesn’t have cracks. However, our outside wall has fallen down. Something that we are very conserned about is the generator room. There has been some serious damage to that and the room could collapse any second. We don’t have electricity so we are using the generator, so that is really needed. Water is also pumped and we are relying on the generator for all that. We have spent the last two days out in the open, cooking and sleeping and everything outside. This morning at 2.30am some people arrived with tents and other aid, so we are going to go out today and hand out the tents to the people. So many people have lost their houses so it is going to be a huge project. These people did not have much to begin with and now they literally have nothing. The medical staff continues to work all day helping out the survivors. This will have to be all for now. I will try to keep you updated as much as I can.

Chief Physician reports in....

The following is an e-mail from an expatriate doctor we will call “Luke” in Pakistan’s NWFP who, with his family has been working in a hospital in the area for many, many years.

”This is Sunday night in Pakistan and we write with heavy hearts at what we have seen today. We traveled to the area, normally about 1.5 hours away by car that we had kept hearing was hardest hit. Descriptions of “devastation" and "there is not one house standing" and "thousands killed" we thought were exaggerations. We found today, however, that all the reports are all too true. Balakot, has been leveled. The road to Balakot is blocked by a landslide about 3 miles from town and one has to walk in. Everywhere people are mourning and burying their dead. Some are still trying to dig underneath the rubble in hopes of finding parents, wife, or children alive. Several schools` roofs fell on studying children, killing many. The hospital is rubble, as is most everything in town. Looking across the river and up the opposite side one can see huge areas of mountain that have slipped into the river. Hundreds were walking out, many carrying children or old people across their backs, and some with obvious injuries themselves. Balakot is the gateway to the Kaghan valley and about 2 hours further on is the mountain resort of Naran. Nothing has been heard from anyone there and we are concerned for a family who live there who are long time friends.

Luke and I left Balakot and hurried back to the hospital, knowing that the trickle of patients so far seen was soon to become a flood. There is a small hospital near Balakot run by a Christian Pakistani physician and we had visited there earlier, desiring to give encouragement and to find out if we should send medical help to them. But because of severe damage to their hospital and one residence, the staff is administering first aid under the trees and sending the more serious cases on. Since returning home we have been in contact with several missionaries from further south who have arranged to send tents and an ambulance to this hospital and then onward to Balakot. Our bazaar is full of food and so we bought supplies and will send them with the tents which are on their way even now from Rawalpindi. And our hospital is the only one for miles which sustained such little damage. The main hospitals to the north and south of us are not functional surgically and are giving treatment to patients outside since their buildings, including operating rooms, are badly damaged. God has blessed us with His protection and we desire to help those around us who are suffering.

Luke held a meeting with all the doctors and other senior staff as soon as we returned to plan how to meet the challenge of caring for seriously injured patients who have lost everything. Missionary doctors from other parts of the country have called and offered their help. The doctors have been working nearly round the clock. And the patients keep on coming............

Thank you for your prayers--for heath and strength for each of the staff who are putting in long hours. Pray that the roads will soon be open (the Army is working on it, but there are many landslides) so that food and tents can be distributed to the needy, and that those who need medical care can be helped.

Thoughts and realities about the Pakistan disaster

The fact that Pakistan is ruled by General Musharraf is a very good thing right now. Many may not agree, however he is an amazing man and will continue to handle the devastation in Pakistan better than any civilian leader without a military background.

Certain elements of the press and rival political groups will no doubt eventually turn the crisis into a mud slinging story factory. However, the fact remains that rescue and relief operations at and above 10,000 feet at anytime, much less in this upcoming season, would be incredibly difficult for a westernized developed country, and will/is proving to be difficult for a developing country like Pakistan.

The fact that most dwellings in the worst effected areas are made of mud and related materials means more structural collapse, however in some ways it is better than cement, because the weight of the materials is more manageable for rescue through hand and shovel digging… and lets face it the vast majority of the worst effected places wont see heavy lifting equipment for days to come.

One of the issues in developing countries that need western helicopter lift support is that much of the heavy machinery that they will want to move may not be in good enough repair for groups like the US military to move. The US helicopters coming from Afghanistan will provide extremely important capacity in bulk goods and people movement; however, unless the heavy equipment is imported or brand new, many of the crews will not feel safe moving it through the mountainous areas. Northern Pakistan is especially treacherous for flying, due to bad weather during much of the upcoming season, and search and rescue operations for downed aircrew will be extremely hard if that situation materializes.

It is going to take years to rebuild the area of the worst hit mountainous region and much of that will be hampered by the upcoming winter season. Relief operations and foreign aid are going to be critical during this season, as any tent city or temporary shelters set up in this area are going to be not only vulnerable to the normal sickness, crime and other issues associated with tent city situations, but will face the hard core winter weather of the region.

Pakistan Earthquake 2005

I will be in Pakistan tomorrow. I am a security consultant that works with vulnerable people groups and humanitarian companies in high risk areas of the world.

I have been traveling to Pakistan and Afghanistan for over 21 years; this trip has been planed for months, however the necessity of it is obviously much stronger after the recent unimaginable devastation the quake caused. You can contact me in Pakistan at travishenderson2003 AT

I work in association with Secured Path and would be happy to assist anyone who is looking for an avenue to get relief goods or money directly to the effected people of Pakistan. I highly encourage cash donations to the following group, as they do tremendous work and are in the effected area as we speak.

International Medical Corps Cash Donation

Leaders plead for help after Asia quake

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Government officials pleaded for international assistance to help dig survivors from the rubble, treat them and begin repairing shattered infrastructure after a 7.6-magnitude earthquake killed about 20,000 people in northern Pakistan and India.