Monday, October 10, 2005

In Pakistan, Church World Service Expedites Shelter, Food for Survivors Survivors of Worst Earthquake in a Century

NEW YORK, Oct. 9 /U.S. Newswire/ -- With more than 19,000 dead and more homeless following yesterday's devastating earthquake in northern Pakistan and Kashmir, global humanitarian agency Church World Service (CWS) and its Pakistan/Afghanistan office report they are responding with expedited initial food relief and shelter kits to survivors in Muree Hills.

Although access into Mansehra from outlying areas is hampered due to road damage, CWS Pakistan's Basic Health Unit staff report they are already seeing an increasing flow of people with medical needs.

From Islamabad this morning, Church World Service Pakistan/Afghanistan Senior Program Manager Shama Mall reports "CWS Mansehra medical teams are out in the community providing tetanus shots to everyone around. And one of our assessment teams managed to get up to Batagram in northwestern Pakistan this morning." Mall says, "The situation is still very chaotic here. Right now everyone is focusing on rescue efforts, but those have been made difficult by the heavy rains and hail that hit some of the affected areas.

"Tremors are continuing," Mall said, "so people are afraid to be indoors. Many people are sleeping in their cars or in the outside." The earthquake was the worst in Kashmir in over 100 years. Some of the areas believed to be worst hit by the 7.4 quake are still not accessible except by air, due to road damage and mudslides.

Church World Service Pakistan/Afghanistan has had offices and relief and development operations in Pakistan for more than 25 years, and is working with government, the UN and other international relief groups to implement coordinated and fasted response to survivors.

CWS Emergency Programs Acting Director Donna Derr says, "Church World Service facilities in Mansehra and Murree in northern Pakistan sustained minor damage, but we are relieved that all staff in our Islamabad office survived, are accounted for, and are responding. We are grieved to report, however," says Derr, "that one of the staff members at our Mansehra office reports that his wife and children died in their home, when the home collapsed in the earthquake."

19,136 people are confirmed killed in Pakistan, with 11,000 alone in Muzaffarabad in the contested area of Kashmir. In Indian-controlled Kashmir 558 are now reported dead, most in the northern state of Jammu, according to Reuters reports.

Derr says CWS staff, the UN and other aid groups in the region are reporting that about 70 percent of homes in the Mansehra area are reported to be damaged or destroyed. During the quake, Derr reports that the water tank at CWS's Mansehra office and clinic exploded and windows shattered, but she says, "Staff have been cleaning up the clinic area, and it's now open, serving survivors needing medical attention."

CWS Pakistan/Afghanistan offices in Karachi, Islamabad, Mansehra and Murree are organizing relief efforts and strategizing to address needs on the ground. Three Church World Service teams are assessing needs and determining longer-term CWS response focus. Initial CWS relief plans include providing emergency food packages for 950 families in the most affected and remote areas of Northwest Frontier Province, near the border with Afghanistan, and in Azad Kashmir.

"Long-term response may focus around Mansehra and Murree, communities north of Islamabad where CWS has programs and good community connections," Derr said. "We're looking at assisting 15,000 affected families with food and non-food items." In addition to emergency relief, the Church World Service Pakistan response will include shelter construction materials.

CWS will also conduct needs assessment in affected regions of Afghanistan, where the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in Jalalabad is coordinating response. When the earthquake struck, Dennis Joseph, of CWS's Mansehra office, was in the U.S. Joseph says he was relieved to hear that his wife and son were safe, "but they're living in our car at the moment." Ironically, Joseph was in the U.S. attending Church World Service's STAR trauma training (Seminars for Trauma Awareness and Resilience) at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia.

Joseph will be in Church World Service's Washington office tomorrow (Mon Oct 10) prior to returning to Pakistan and is available by appointment for media interviews. Derr said Church World Service will issue a U.S. fundraising appeal. "As early as this morning we had received initial financial commitments from organizations in the U.S. and Europe," she said.

Contributions to support these efforts may be sent to: Church World Service Southern Asia Earthquake 2005 -- No. 6979, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515
Contributions may also be made online at, or by calling 800-297-1516, ext. 222.


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