Humanitarian Man

Sunday, October 23, 2005

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.

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