• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

Heavy monsoon rains force relocation of quake survivors in Kashmir

News Stories, 24 July 2006

Facing threats of landslides, families in this village near Muzaffarabad prepare to be relocated to a camp nearby.

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan, July 24 (UNHCR) Some 3,880 earthquake survivors have been relocated to relief camps from villages at risk of landslides as heavy monsoon rains pound quake-affected areas of northern Pakistan.

The relocation exercise was completed over the weekend after four weeks of intense efforts by the Camp Management Organisation (CMO) in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN refugee agency and the UN Children's Fund.

The earthquake of October 8 last year killed more than 73,000 people, totally destroyed a hundred villages and laid waste hundreds more, leaving many at risk of further aftershocks and landslides.

Earlier this year, the Pakistan government conducted a survey of these villages to assess their safety for displaced people who wanted to return and for those who never left. There were concerns that more than 50,000 people might have to be moved from villages in Pakistan-administered Kashmir to existing camps until next spring. As it turned out, fortunately, the numbers were much lower most villages were only partially at risk.

To prepare the affected villagers for relocation before the onset of monsoon rains around mid-July, a mass information campaign was launched in the second half of June. The relocation was mandatory due to the risks involved, but the villagers had a choice as to which camp they wanted to move to. They were allowed to take with them all their belongings. Some villagers chose to go to their families or rent land to pitch their tents, but a great majority opted for the existing camps in and around the provincial capital, Muzaffarabad.

Most of the camps are fairly close to the evacuated villages. So the evacuees have easy access to the city, where many work, as well as to their village of origin, where they may want to visit.

In Brora, Shafaqat, a young boy of 11 with bright eyes and a smiling face was waiting with his family of six to be relocated to Meira Tanolia camp. Their house on the other side of the mountain collapsed during the earthquake, and Shafaqat lost a brother and a sister when the school building was destroyed. They moved to this side of the mountain. Now, they had to move again.

The affected villages were often not accessible by road, and the terrain was difficult and dangerous. During relocation, the CMO officials and partners were seen climbing up breathless, with their shirts stuck to their backs from sweat, trying to reach these villages, check names against the registration list and move the villagers on UNHCR-funded IOM transport to their destinations.

UNHCR, CMO and other agencies provided the same assistance to all relocating villagers two tents for each family, with bedding and other food and relief items. Camps have also been provided with better water and power supplies and new sanitation facilities.

© UNHCR/S.Dabiri
In Makri Bala village, widow Zohra chose to relocate to a camp with her neighbours instead of going to a refuge for widows and orphans.

Standing in the doorway of her home with a six-week-old baby in her arms, Zohra was waiting to be transported to her new home in the Deryan Seydan camp. Just 22 years old, her young face was lined with sadness and bewilderment. She had been through a horrific earthquake, and a few days ago she lost her husband in a road accident. Her village, Makri Bala, slopes onto the Neelum river bank and was seriously damaged in the 1992 floods.

Despite all that, she had not lost her willpower. She had been offered relocation to a refuge for widows and orphans run by Al-Khobaib, a Turkish non-governmental organisation. She refused, choosing instead to join her fellow villagers in Deryan Seydan camp an important first step in facing the future.

By Solmaz Dabiri in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan




UNHCR country pages

Pakistan Earthquake: A Race Against the Weather

With winter fast approaching and well over a million people reported homeless in quake-stricken Pakistan, UNHCR and its partners are speeding up the delivery and distribution of hundreds of tonnes of tents, blankets and other relief supplies from around the world.

In all, the NATO-UNHCR airlift, which began on 19 October, will deliver a total of 860 tonnes of supplies from our stockpiles in Iskenderun, Turkey. Separately, by 25 October, UNHCR-chartered aircraft had so far delivered 14 planeloads of supplies to Pakistan from the agency's stocks in Copenhagen, Dubai and Jordan.

On the ground, UNHCR is continuing to distribute aid supplies in the affected areas to help meet some of the massive needs of an estimated 3 million people.

Pakistan Earthquake: A Race Against the Weather

Pakistan: Fleeing to Safety

More than 1.5 million people flee their homes in North-West Pakistan.

Fighting between the army and Taliban militants in and around the Swat Valley in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province has displaced more than 1.5 million people since the beginning of May. Some of the displaced are being sheltered in camps set up by the government and supplied by UNHCR. Others - the majority, in fact - are staying in public buildings, such as schools, or with friends and extended family members. Living conditions are harsh. With the onset of summer, rising temperatures are contributing to a range of ailments, especially for villagers from Swat accustomed to a cooler climate. Pakistan's displacement crisis has triggered an outpouring of generosity at home. UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is urging a "massive" assistance effort from abroad as well.

Pakistan: Fleeing to Safety

Pakistan: Finding Refuge

Pakistani civilians continue to stream out of the region around the Swat Valley to find shelter in Mardana

More than 2 million people, according to local authorities, have been forced from their homes following Pakistani efforts to drive militants out of the region around north-west Pakistan's Swat Valley. Some 200,000 are living in camps set up by the Pakistani government and supplied by UNHCR and other agencies. The remainder are staying in schools or other communal buildings or being hosted by families. The heat is intense, reaching 45 degrees Celsius, and many of the displaced are suffering from heat-related infections and water-borne illnesses, although conditions are improving. UNHCR is providing tents, cooking sets, plastic sheeting and jerry cans, among other aid items. Award-winning photographer Alixandra Fazzina has spent the last two weeks documenting the plight of the internally displaced, from their arrival in safe areas, to the camps, schools and homes in which they now find themselves.

Pakistan: Finding Refuge

Pakistan: Returning HomePlay video

Pakistan: Returning Home

Since the beginning of November, UNHCR has been offering an enhanced package to every registered refugee in Pakistan choosing to go home to Afghanistan.
Pakistan: Helping the HostsPlay video

Pakistan: Helping the Hosts

Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees in Pakistan's Balochistan province have access to schools and basic services, but the cost is not easy to bear.
Pakistan: Pushed to SafetyPlay video

Pakistan: Pushed to Safety

Thousands are forced to flee the fighting in Pakistan's Khyber Agency on the border with Afghanistan.