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AmeriCares Efforts in Pakistan

  • July 28, 2006

Last October, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake rocked northern Pakistan, impacting the lives of millions of people in Pakistan-administered Kashimir and the North West Frontier Province. More than 80,000 people died, an estimated 100,000 were injured and over three million people were left homeless. AmeriCares responded with an outpouring of relief that helped lift spirits and save lives. Today, as the work of rebuilding and reconstructing communities is underway, AmeriCares continues to support this new phase of the relief effort.

The following is a summary of AmeriCares efforts to date — work made possible by a generous response from the American people. We are committed to using our donations to help improve the lives of those most affected by this catastrophe, to rebuild healthcare infrastructure where it no longer exists, and to do whatever is needed to restore a sense of normalcy to those who have survived.

The Emergency Response Phase
In the immediate days and weeks after the earthquake, AmeriCares emergency response focused primarily on bringing medicines and emergency relief supplies to Pakistan. The first AmeriCares airlift of essential medicines arrived on October 12 and was rapidly distributed in Muzaffarabad, the epicenter of the quake, located in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Here, 100% of the population was affected by the catastrophe, with survivors losing relatives, homes and jobs, some of them losing everything.

In the adjoining North West Frontier Province, people in many communities were similarly affected and local medical facilities were coping valiantly with the needs of the injured. AmeriCares second airlift arrived on October 26, delivering more than 100,000 pounds of medicines that were distributed to many of the major health facilities in this area as well as desperately needed blankets. In total, the two airlifts carried 130,000 pounds of relief supplies valued at more than $8 million.

At the same time, responding to an urgent need for temporary shelter for the survivors, AmeriCares purchased and delivered 1,200 winterized family tents, which were given to quake survivors in Northwest Frontier Province.

The Bana Field Hospital
It was clear in the early post-disaster phase that many of the area’s medical care facilities had been extensively damaged if not completely destroyed. Providing healthcare to the survivors was an extremely urgent need, since so many people were injured in the quake and because the onset of winter meant that those who had lost their homes would be living in a harsh climate under very difficult conditions. Many of them, especially the children, were at risk for ailments such as diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, measles and tetanus.

In response to this urgent need, AmeriCares donated and set up a 15-bed field hospital in the village of Bana, in the remote Allai Valley. Transported by trucks, planes and helicopter to reach Bana, the hospital opened in early December and is currently providing healthcare services to a population of about 150,000 people. The structure is actually six interlinked, weatherized, climate-controlled tents and includes a patient recovery tent, operating and emergency rooms, a laboratory, radiology unit and an obstetrics/gynecology unit. The facility is now being managed by AmeriCares partner, Save the Children, and to date has received more than 17,000 patient visits. One of the greatest advantages the hospital brings to the local community is the availability of women doctors. In this traditional, conservative area of Pakistan, women and girls are unable to be treated by male physicians. The availability of female medical personnel has enabled many local women to visiting the clinic, the majority of whom have never had professional medical care. More than 30 women have given birth at the clinic since early December.

The Vaccine Airlift
In late December, AmeriCares third airlift delivered one million doses of life-saving vaccine to Pakistan. The vaccine, known as HibTITER® protects young children against Hæmophilus influenzæ type b (HIB), a major cause of invasive bacterial disease, including meningitis. Responding to a request from World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF officials, the American drug manufacturer, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals offered the vaccine to the Pakistan relief effort. However, because the vaccine must be transported by a “Cold Chain”—that is, kept between 36ºF and 46ºF at all times during the shipping and distribution process—officials in Pakistan had no way to safely transport the vaccines from the U.S. to Pakistan. Upon learning of these special requirements, AmeriCares President and CEO offered to deliver the goods to WHO and UNICEF.

“Our greatest challenge right now is to protect young children from serious infections. This vaccine will go a long way in doing this,” said Dr. Rehan Hafiz, head of Pakistan’s national immunization program in December. “Administering this vaccine is one of the major initiatives for protecting children under the age of two years, who are at the greatest risk.”

Looking Ahead
After having survived the earthquake and then a harsh winter, the people in the affected regions of northern Pakistan still face many challenges in terms of access to health care. To meet their medical needs, AmeriCares will be launching a partnership with the World Health Organization to provide financial support for building 20 “Rural Health Centers.” Designed to bring high quality health care services to the earthquake survivors, the rural health centers will be located in the North West Frontier Province and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. More than 60% of the primary care facilities in these regions were damaged or destroyed during the October quake; the AmeriCares initiative will replace key facilities in critical areas. The health centers will support a total population of up to 1 million people. AmeriCares will purchase the structures, fully equip each center and supply each with essential medicines.

As always, AmeriCares is collaborating with local partners in the earthquake affected areas, to ensure that our aid is appropriate and meets the greatest needs of the communities who have asked for our help. Our commitment to the earthquake victims is strong and we will continue to assist them in this time of rebuilding.