Pakistan still reeling from 2005 quake

Reports coming out of Pakistan in recent months describe a dire situation for the tens of thousands of people who continue to live in makeshift tents in the earthquake-affected regions of the country.

The regions most impacted by the Oct. 8, 2005, earthquake were Azad Jammu and Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the North-West Frontier province. About 80,000 people were killed by the quake and up to 4 million were made homeless.

Although the earthquake hit a year and a half ago, it continues to have a long-term, devastating impact on the people of the region. Poor living conditions, adverse weather and widespread poverty have exacerbated the situation.

With thousands still living in tents, acute respiratory infections continue to threaten and take lives. One report issued in January cited 20 recent deaths of children from pneumonia and chest infections. This number has since risen to 45.

The help and outreach by international relief workers and agencies has in many cases been exemplary. Two cases stand out. Demira, a German humanitarian aid organization with a focus on providing medical assistance, teamed up with Morning Star Development, of Colorado Springs, Colo., in tackling the pneumonia problem. They provided critical medical assistance when local hospitals and clinics were unable to keep up with the increase in demand.

Cuba has been another standout. A team of 2,400 Cuban doctors, paramedics and other medical workers set up 32 field hospitals and two relief camps to help the quake victims, performing countless life-saving medical interventions. While the Cuban relief mission formally ended in mid-2006, this year 1,000 Pakistanis have been invited to Cuba to receive free medical training.

Cuba is renowned worldwide for its assistance to poverty-stricken areas and victims of natural disasters, particularly in Africa and Latin America. It has close to 30,000 people working in different assistance projects in over 60 countries.

The earthquake-stricken regions of Pakistan remain a concern in many people’s hearts and minds all around the world. For updates on relief efforts there and elsewhere, visit www.reliefweb.int.

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