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Thursday, December 8, 2016
Eyewitness report from Asian earthquake zone
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¬†CAFOD's Nana Anto-Awaukye travelled with Caritas Pakistan's emergency response team to assess the needs in villages left devastated by the earthquake. Driving along the Balakot road, life carries on as normal. Market traders display their bananas, apples, and grapes. Herds of goats and cattle wander aimlessly on the roads between cars, motorbikes, bicycles, and trucks. As the road takes you into Balakot, the devastation of the earthquake is everywhere ≠ buildings reduced to rubble, people forced to clamber over what was once their home, and the homes of neighbours, as the only way to reach their destinations. Along the roadside there are piles of brightly coloured clothes and tower-high packets of biscuits. These are some of the goodwill relief items sent by people in the first days after the earthquake. Today, the co-ordination of relief is more focused, and Caritas Pakistan is listening and talking to elders in communities to find out what their real needs are. Trucks, military vehicles, and the familiar white 4x4 cars of international aid agencies jostle for space on the small winding road to the village. The best way to reach people is to get out and walk, which means climbing over what was once the front of houses, to reach the village of Naraha. On reaching the village, the first thing that strikes you is the collapsed minaret, with its shiny silver crescent moon glinting in the sun and the men of the community gathered around it. Tariq Raza, Caritas Pakistan's emergency co-ordinator, visited the village a few days before and spoke with the village elder to find out which families were most in need. "It is very important now to really know what the needs of the people are," he said. "And the best way to do this is to consult with village elders or councillors. They know every family." The Caritas Pakistan team, working with volunteers Faisal, Emran, Bilal, and Waqasl, organise the men of the village and prepare to hand out their vouchers. Faisal explained: "The information on the voucher documents what the need of that family is. The most pressing need for everyone is to have a tent, especially as winter is coming. You can already see snow on the mountain tops." There were no women present at the gathering. However, two women, Pachi-Jan and Naheema-Jan, were silently circling the outskirts. They did not speak up until the Caritas team moved away, and then they approached. Pachi-Jan said: "I was cleaning in another house when the earthquake struck. I ran out and in front of my eyes the whole village fell. My husband was already dead (before the earthquake) and other family members used to take care of me. Now they have been killed by the earthquake, and I am alone." Men tend to be the wage earners in these small remote communities and the women depend on their earnings. The earthquake has left many households without men, and it is these women that face hardship. Caritas Pakistan wants to ensure that the vulnerable in society are reached. "The co-ordination effort is improving," said Tariq Raza. "It does take time. But for this village we have a proper record of what the need is for each family."
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