Quake survivors need food, shelter, says UN report

Updated October 23, 2013


Earthquake affected people busy in building a shelter fot themselves. — Photo by INP
Earthquake affected people busy in building a shelter fot themselves. — Photo by INP

KARACHI: An independent report prepared by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) has said that lack of food security and proper shelter remain the most challenging aspect of relief work in the earthquake-hit areas of Awaran and Kech districts in Balochistan.

Two powerful earthquakes struck parts of the province last month. The combined death toll of the earthquakes measuring 7.7 and 6.8 on the Richter scale is 386 while 816 people, including children, were injured, according to figures released by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

The UN OCHA report shows findings of a rapid assessment, based on key informants, conducted by 11 non-governmental organisations across 296 villages in Awaran and Kech.

The findings indicate that the earthquakes have affected at least 27,400 households, or 138,372 people, and damaged or destroyed 19,688 houses in the assessed areas.

“Due to a complex working environment, the assessment team could not engage any female enumerators. As a result, only male respondents were interviewed by the male enumerators and only partial data was gathered regarding the specific needs and concerns of women and girls,” the report notes.

It says that at least 30,000 families (200,000 people) have been affected in Awaran, Kech, Kharan, Panjgur, Washuk and Gwadar districts.

Awaran and Kech districts have been hit the hardest and ‘are therefore prioritised for humanitarian response’.

UNOCHA representative Hussainullah said the UN was ready to help the government whenever a formal request was sent.

“Meanwhile, we are focusing on mobilising donors to financially help our local partners in carrying out relief work.

FOOD INSECURITY: Despite the distribution of food items, including 50 tonnes of high energy biscuits and 15 tonnes of dry/powdered milk by the Pakistan Army, the needs of the affected population remain unmet.

It is worth noting that according to an integrated food security phase classification conducted in March with the participation of public officials, UN agencies and other organisations related to food security, the districts of Awaran and Kech were classified Phase 3 (crisis or highly food insecure). With the impact of this earthquake, it can thus be estimated that the affected areas are now in Phase 4 (emergency) as per the classification criteria, which makes a case for immediate need of humanitarian assistance.

Majority of key informants (67pc) reported that less than 10pc of the households had enough money to buy food and only six per cent reported that adequate food was available in the nearest usual markets.

“During the assessment, 36pc of the male key informants reported that there had been reports of women who had stopped or reduced breastfeeding after the earthquake, an indicator strongly associated with an increased risk of malnutrition in infants and young children.

“In addition, 12pc of respondents reported that there has been distribution of milk powder/liquid milk/feeding bottles/ teats in the community since the emergency, which increases the likelihood of reduced breastfeeding, infection and malnutrition in infants and young children,” the report highlights.

EXIGENCY: Among the 296 villages visited in Awaran and Kech, 80pc of houses were damaged, including 65pc believed to have been destroyed.

The houses that were not destroyed may have suffered non-visible but substantial damage that could compromise the safety of the structures, which remain dangerous and at risk of sudden collapse.

Talking to Dawn, Zahid Baloch, focal person of the Awaran Disaster Response Forum, the coordinating agency in the affected area, said the approaching winter was making the communities vulnerable.

“The tents are temporary shelters and do not offer much protection against elements. The need for permanent housing must be met at the earliest.”

The report says that 13pc of the 10,227 households that depend on agriculture in the earthquake-hit areas have been affected and require assistance to restore their livelihood.

A high poverty level, along with negligible economic activity and volatile law and order situation, means that people in Awaran and Kech are dependent on public and donor funding for any rehabilitation and uplift works. So far, no relief package has been announced for the survivors.