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MSF Operations in Earthquake-Affected Areas
November 2, 2005
A major setback for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) operations is the difficulty to transport and distribute material. A large part of the population is dispersed in a mountainous region, where access is difficult and in some cases impossible. Some places are only accessible by helicopter, but will soon be completely out of reach with the deteriorating weather conditions. The Pakistani government has made an appeal for people to leave the mountains and regroup in camps in the valley. However it is very difficult to estimate how many people will respond to the appeal, and figures vary from several thousand people up to 200,000 people. Additionally, the constant movement of people is making it hard to estimate how many people have already come down. The first impression is that the influx of people is not massive, and that many people will stay in the mountains. If this is the case, then the biggest challenge will be to reach these people and deliver them assistance.
Distribution of relief goods MSF has started to distribute thousands of winterized tents, blankets, sleeping bags, construction kits, and relief items such as cooking and hygiene kits to the survivors of the earthquake in Pakistani-administered Kashmir and the country's North-West Frontier Province. With the arrival of the winter in a few weeks time, the most urgent task now is to provide a shelter to thousands of homeless. These distributions require a massive logistical effort and MSF is worried that the snow could hamper the operation before it is completed.
MSF continues to provide medical assistance to hundreds of patients every day. Teams work permanently in 18 locations and still perform outreach activities, by car, by helicopter, or by foot, to identify new locations where victims of the earthquake are still in urgent need of assistance. Thousands of people have been treated so far, mainly for wounds and fractures. While these cases, direct consequence of the earthquake, are decreasing, MSF medical teams have recorded a recent increase in respiratory infections, skin infections, and diarrheas, all pathologies related to the poor living conditions of the victims. To avoid possible outbreaks of epidemic diseases, MSF is currently vaccinating thousands of children against measles and has vaccinated patients against tetanus as well. The organization also provides mental health support to traumatized victims.
Staff and material
More than 140 international staff, including doctors, nurses, surgeons, psychologists, social workers, logisticians, and water-and-sanitation experts together with another 200 local staff are working in MSF's earthquake relief operations in Pakistan. The organization has already brought more than 750 tons of relief goods into Pakistan including medical items (such as emergency medical kits, drugs, surgical material, dressings, plaster, dialysis machines, high-protein food, oral re-hydration solution), logistical material (especially water-and-sanitation material such as tanks, pumps, and water-treatment units) and shelter (winterized tents, blankets, and sleeping mats). Additional relief items such as hygiene, cooking and construction kits are being purchased locally.
In addition, MSF teams in Indian Kashmir give mental health support, provide medical and logistical items to hospitals and distribute relief goods.
DETAIL OF THE OPERATIONS IN PAKISTAN
Distribution of relief goods
MSF has started distribution of family winterized tents, blankets, construction kits, and hygiene and cooking kits to thousands of people in remote areas of Bagh, Mansehra and Muzaffarabad districts. More than 2,200 tents or construction kits and another 15,000 blankets have been distributed so far. Thousands more should be distributed in the coming weeks.
In Kargan, a measles-vaccination campaign is ongoing. More than 2,000 children have been vaccinated so far. In this village, MSF team still assists an average of 80 patients per day in an outpatient facility. Another medical team is now working in Gangwal, north of Mansehra, in the Alai valley, and treats an average of 80 patients per day.
Mental health support
MSF continues to provide mental health care to hundreds of traumatized victims in Muzaffarabad, Mansehra and Bagh districts.
Water and sanitation
MSF teams improve water and sanitation structures in displaced camps in Muzaffarabad and Mansehra. The organization has also set up water supply and sanitation facilities to support Bagh and Mansehra hospitals.