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2005 Kashmir Earthquake Appeal

Right in the heart of the Earthquake zone

There probably never has been an NGO so on the scene of a disaster. SOS Children had just finished constructing a new Children's Villages at Muzaffarabad (our eighth in Pakistan), and the children who were going to live there were having a brief stay at another Children's Village before moving into their new home when disaster struck. SOS Children's Village Muzaffarabad was right at the epicentre and completely destroyed (despite our 60 year life span construction standards). Few buildings near it were left standing at all. In total some 79,000 people died and unlike for the Asia Tsunami there was no huge international response.

Kashmir Earthquake SOS workers

SOS Children had been in Pakistan for decades with a considerable presence including seven children's villages, and even having had commemorative stamps in our honour. More remarkable for the 15 years prior to the earthquake SOS Pakistan had raised enough funds locally from Paksitani businesses and individuals to fund 100% of our operations there. What better demonstration of "strong local rooting" could there be than that?

Shortly after disaster struck, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf declared in an interview that “SOS Children’s Villages is the best custodian of our Kashmiri children”, and appointed SOS Children legal guardian of all unaccompanied children.

When the earthquake struck on 8 Oct 2005 our response was quick, as you can see from all of the news updates listed. By 11 Oct 2005 SOS Children was distributing relief care packages as well as blankets and tents for more than 1,000 people in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which was close to the earthquake's epicentre and has been completely destroyed. Each "relief care package" contained rations of dry food, milk and water to serve one family for two days. These were packaged by students from Islamabad who immediately volunteered for the job, working through the night. A team of 20 SOS Children employees was coordinating the relief efforts directly in Muzaffarabad and already SOS was sending a team and emergency supplies to Bagh, another town close to the earthquake's epicentre and which was unreached by authorities. In addition, plans were already underway for emergency shelter in Islamabad for approximately 100 unaccompanied children and women, and collection points for the distribution of clothing were being established.

Kashmir Emergency Relief one year on

By a year on we had continued to do whatever our means allowed. We has distributed 1,100 high-spec waterproof tents were distributed, of which 100 served as an emergency shelter for survivors in Muzaffarabad, 200 were used to set up 25 tented schools in Ghari Dopatta, and others were distributed to families in need. Before the earthquake, there were 11,500 schools in Kashmir; 10,000 were destroyed so tented lessons were badly needed.

By a year after the event, many children have been reunited with their families, but where this was not possible, there has still been a happy ending for some. Of the children who were orphaned as a result of the earthquake, 224 have now found a new home with SOS Children: in the SOS Children's Villages in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Dhodial and Faisalabad, at the emergency centre in Lahore and in Rawalpindi at the SOS reception centre and newly-founded youth home.

However there was still much to do (even though the eyes of the Western media had long since moved elsewhere).

Kashmir Emergency Relief two years on

Victims of the earthquake were still a high priority for our colleagues in Pakistan in Nov 2007. SOS Children remained the only organization authorised by the Government of Pakistan to admit orphans and more projects were still in course.

The tally on children in the second year was:

around 300 lone children were in our care, with a huge influx expected with the next centres opening

32 children were being cared for at the SOS Emergency Shelter in Lahore.
3 children have moved to Life Care in Lahore, which is an organisation that specifically helps children with special needs.
5 more children who could not be reunited with their families have been given a loving family in the SOS Children’s Village in Rawalpindi.
72 children were at the new SOS Emergency Shelter in Rawalpindi.
12 young adults were being supported at the SOS Youth Home in Rawalpindi.
23 children were already in the new SOS Children’s Village in Sialkot.
51 children are at the new SOS Emergency Shelter in Dhodial, NWFP
3 more children who could not be reunited with their families have been given a loving family in the SOS Children’s Village in Faisalabad
72 children were reunited with their extended families.

The SOS Children’s Village and Community School, which we had built in Muzaffarabad, prior to the earthquake, are very near the epicentre of the earthquake. A major fault-line runs right through the project. Six of the original fifteen family homes are now habitable. We plan to rebuild a High School for boys on this site and establish the Village, an SOS Primary School and an SOS Secondary School for girls at another location. We are also planning to build SOS Children’s Villages with Youth Homes and SOS Schools in Islamabad, Rawalakot and Bakrial in the North West Frontier Province. We have received some generous offers of help in the construction of these projects and are awaiting allocation of land. We have assurances from all concerned that our request for land will receive high priority and hope that this will soon be finalised so that we can proceed with our plans. In the meantime, the children are adjusting well to their new surroundings and amaze us all by their resilience. British Airways staff are taking a keen interest in the Emergency Programme and crew members have been visiting the children. They have raised funds for a family home in the planned SOS Village in Islamabad and have also donated a minibus, office equipment and stationery items.




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