The Pakistan Earthquake, 1 Year Later

By Ken Hackett
CRS President

Earlier this month, we marked the one-year anniversary of the Oct. 8 earthquake that devastated communities in the Kashmir region of Pakistan and India. An estimated 73,000 people were killed and nearly 3 million were left homeless, facing a harrowing winter as international aid agencies mobilized to provide them with shelter.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) responded with a mixture of innovation and determination. The fact that CRS has worked in Pakistan since 1954 enabled us to respond quickly and comprehensively to this disaster, calling upon the expertise of our staff as well as on our longstanding local partners. But the fact that many of the communities affected by the quake were located in mountainous terrain made delivery of relief supplies and personnel especially difficult.

This was an emergency that required creative solutions. A worldwide shortage of winterized tents left the prospect that many families would not have adequate shelter before winter snows arrived. CRS staff came up with a design for transitional shelter kits that provided tools and basic building materials to affected families, who could then use timber and stone salvaged from their former homes to build a safe, adequate and durable shelter.

Delivering these kits required a heroic effort on the part of our staff and partners. CRS worked in the more remote areas, where they faced multiple challenges: steep mountains, cold climate, blocked or no roads, and the fact that villages are spread far apart. Many villages require hiking hours up steep mountains from the nearest road.

To date, CRS has worked in 400 communities to provide more than 166,000 people with semi permanent shelters, clean drinking water, refurbished schools and rehabilitated markets. Along the way, we have received recognition for our work. In March, Gul Wali Khan, the CRS director of emergency services in Pakistan, was selected to brief the visiting President Bush on the reconstruction effort. And last month, I represented CRS when President Perez Musharraf presented us with the prestigious Sitara-i-Eisaar (Star of Sacrifice) medal for our efforts.

Looking to the future, CRS will continue to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Pakistan, helping them to Build Back Better as they continue to restore their homes, their livelihoods and their communities.

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