Monday, October 31, 2005


Regional Vice President, World Vision
Written in Pakistan on Oct. 30, 2005

Dave Robinson assists in the distribution of survival supplies in Pakistan's quake-devastated North West Frontier ProvinceWitnessing the utter devastation left by the South Asia earthquake in the town of Balakot and surrounding villages early Saturday morning brought to mind the liturgies of so many of our Christian traditions:

Lord have mercy!

Balakot was almost completely leveled. The Bam earthquake, as bad as it was, it was tame by comparison and logistically much simpler.

But the worst appears yet to come. I fear this winter will show this emergency to be much worse than the tsunami. There is no comparison to the dedicated global response for the tsunami. Such a response is lacking here.

Lord have mercy!

This quake leveled not only multiple cities and towns but countless inaccessible mountain villages spread across 25,000 square kilometers of rugged mountains. As I walked through the rubble, I struggled to articulate the horror I saw and the death I smelled. Human flesh rots under tons of crushed concrete. Recovery of bodies is painfully slow. I am there three weeks to the day, hour, and minute the quake struck but large numbers of homeless still walk dazed through the rubble remains of Balakot.

Winter is only a week or two away. Heavy snow will likely fall before the end of November. The Pakistan Meteorological Department reports November will easily see one foot of snow in the mountains. That will rise to five feet at the epicenter in December and seven feet north of there. Then eight feet in January at the epicenter and 10 feet to the north.

Lord have mercy!

Rashid stands in front of his quake-devastated home in the mountains. The coming winter is forecast to bring snows of up to 10 feet and temperatures dropping below minus 50 degrees farenheitEstimates vary on how many are homeless, 2.3 to 4 million at risk. The nights are already very cold in the valleys, frigid in the higher elevations. Aftershocks are still frequent, terrorizing the population. At 2:35 a.m. Saturday a big one hit, felt from Manshera to Islamabad, waking almost everyone in the Manshera team house, except me. I slept right through it while everyone rushed outside. Jet lag and a lost night's sleep in-flight sent me into such a deep sleep I missed the terror these tremors provoke over and over since the big one hit three weeks ago.

Fear of another quake has most of those who lived through the quake sleeping outdoors under whatever shelter they can put together. Most don't have much, if anything. Certainly not enough to protect them from the cold, ice and snow coming soon. Every agency is struggling to meet this mammoth need. I participated in a family kit distribution in a mountain hamlet Saturday afternoon where men from seven mountain villages gathered. Tents, tarps, blankets, kitchen sets and collapsible water containers went to hundreds of families. ( Lots of good images available from Steve Matthews with good branding.)

But we will run out of these basic shelter items much sooner than we will meet the needs, our logistics team tells me.

Lord have mercy!

We have a good, unified, focused and dedicated team of Pakistanis with an international relief crew comprised of Congolese, Dutch, Ghanian, Iranian, Afghan, Canadian, Kiwi, Sri Lankan, and American professionals. Our initial response has been good. It is all impressive.

But we are deeply concerned by the low commitment of private and public funding for this disaster, by resulting cash flow issues and staffing needs for both the winter and the recovery phases. We are finding good local staff, but are challenged by the need for qualified expatriate staff who can lead this for the next year. The small World Vision Pakistan team and the deployed Dubai team plus GRRT staff have done a stellar job to get us started and positioned. Finding the next wave of staff is essential.

Continued prayer and action from all of World Vision's friends and partners for the human and financial needs to meet the demands of this disaster is vital. We need more resources now so we can help save lives before and when winter hits the millions at risk.

We must mobilize with all that is within us to respond to this disaster.

Millions of lives are at risk.

Lord have mercy!

Shukriya!! which is thank you, as all the Pakistani men expressed so enthusiastically as we handed out blankets yesterday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dave, I really enjoyed what you had to say!