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Still waiting: Earthquake victims’ travails

April 22, 2013

WE can only hope that the state eventually makes good on its promises because for now, good intentions alone are evident: provincial disaster management authority trucks will soon arrive with relief goods, the PDMA has completed its initial survey of the losses and these will be submitted to the government soon, a plan to build container homes as temporary shelters has been finalised and the Quetta Electric Supply Company has set up an emergency cell. The director-general of the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority has said that the affected people will not be left on their own. All these words paint a rosy scenario. But on the ground, the picture is very different. Several days after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake flattened much of the border town of Mashkel, the roughly 15,000 people rendered homeless are still waiting for food, tents and potable water. They are still waiting for an indication of whether state and society are willing or able to help.

It is true that the state apparatus has generally been found to be sluggish and unable to cope whenever there are large numbers of people to be helped in emergency circumstances, be it in the aftermath of floods, large-scale displacement in the northwest or the current post-earthquake scenario. Yet, unfortunately, in Mashkel’s case relief efforts are being significantly hampered by the fact that it is so remote, and that road access is at best limited. Whatever few goods have reached the area have been flown in by Pakistan Army helicopters. Erra has promised now that the road network in the area will be improved and a water-provision scheme established. Mashkel was never the beneficiary of the sort of development it needed; now, it is doubly the victim.