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Saturday, December 10, 2016
CAFOD partners in race against time in Pakistan
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¬†Catholic aid agency, CAFOD, says getting aid to survivors of the South Asia earthquake is "a race against time" and that much more funding is urgently required to help prevent further deaths. As the harsh Himalayan winter descends on the devastated villages of North West Pakistan and Kashmir, CAFOD's partners are still trying to reach many thousands of survivors with essential tents, blankets and medical aid. "The situation is critical. It is a race against time," said CAFOD's Senior Press Officer, Nana Anto-Awuakye. "If we cannot get aid to the hundreds of villages which have been completely destroyed by the earthquake, thousands more people will die of hypothermia and other diseases in the coming weeks." Nana has just returned from Mensehra, a town which lies to the west of Muzaffarabad, close to the epicentre of the earthquake. CAFOD's partners have set up a base there, from which they are distributing aid to the surrounding villages. Nana was part of the emergency response team made up of CAFOD's partners and has spent the past few weeks visiting villages with the team, assessing needs and distributing aid. "I was really struck by how populated the area was. There are many hundreds of villages dotted all over the mountainsides. Accessing these villages is an incredible challenge as many cannot be reached by road and, as the weather worsens, the ability to use helicopters decreases. "Our partners have already distributed aid to a great number of people in need, but there are many, many more still to be reached. There are still thousands of people in urgent need of shelter and we only have a matter of days before the first snowfall. More funding is urgently required to help our partners reach these extremely vulnerable survivors." CAFOD has already pledged over £1 million to their partners Caritas Pakistan, Catholic Relief Services and Islamic Relief. Its partners have been distributing tents, blankets, kitchen utensils and other urgently required aid as well as dispensing vaccinations to survivors in some of the worst affected areas near Muzaffarabad and Balakot. The agency also sent out a team of humanitarian relief experts to help with the relief effort. CAFOD's partners are also working hard to reach the most vulnerable - women, children and the elderly. Gender specialist, Sabra Bano, who is a consultant for CAFOD's sister agency CORDAID, is currently assessing the particular needs of women. Many thousands of women lost male family members in the earthquake and have been reluctant to ask for help. "In disaster emergencies like this one, it is often the vulnerable that is, women, children and the elderly, who do not always get access to resources or their needs are not thought about when agencies plan their relief programmes," Ms Bano explained. "For example, when planning tent management, simple issues like where to build the toilets and making sure there is proper lighting for women's safety, needs to be taken into account. Another issue that is very current is the fact that many households lost male relatives so thought needs to go into how women will cope without their male 'guardians', particularly given the cultural sensitivities to the role of women here." The United Nations has said that the coming days are critical. CAFOD urges all governments and individuals to dig deep and give as much money as they can to help aid workers reach the vulnerable survivors.
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