Islamic Relief’s Haseeb Khalid has witnessed at first hand the plight of earthquake survivors in Chitral district, Pakistan. Here he describes the situation of the communities he has met.

Damage in Charun Ovir village, Chitral, Pakistan.

Damage in Charun Ovir village, Chitral, Pakistan.

First there were the intense floods and now an earthquake has struck. The people of northern Pakistan have been through so much. The full extent of damage in northern Pakistan following Monday’s earthquake is unconfirmed – although reports are coming in – and we can only imagine the level of devastation in many areas. In those we have already reached – villages in the districts Shangla and Chitral – communities have lost everything. There, Islamic Relief teams are assessing their needs. Communities have run out of food, with livelihoods and kitchens buried under rubble, water supplies damaged and shelter crushed. With each passing day they become more and more vulnerable. Winter is imminent and snow has already fallen in villages at higher altitude. Night-time temperatures are below freezing, and hundreds of people, including children, are already exposed to harsh weather conditions.

Access to affected areas remain a challenge

After travelling for about 12 hours to reach Chitral from Islamabad, as a team, we travel another six to seven hours daily to reach remote communities. Aftershocks have triggered landslide, which have blocked roads, and the threat of more means we have to be extra vigilant. Luckily, our stock will soon reach where it is needed.

Without shelter ahead of snow falling

Haseeb Khalid

Haseeb Khalid

The onset of an earthquake just ahead of winter is another blow to the communities that have already suffered through this year’s summer floods. Many of the homes that survived the floods have been affected by the earthquake, and neighborhoods are now partially or entirely destroyed. Residents of villages like Churan Ovir, Geen Lusht, Jugore, Hinjul, and Kuru are left with no option but to live out in the open or in makeshift arrangements. Villagers from Churan Ovir told us they were the worst days they were encountering.

“It’s been very challenging and continuous aftershocks traumatise us,” one villager told me. “We have no option to find any safer place. We have piled belongings around the debris but are exposed to heavy rains and snow, and our livestock are also exposed. We are out of food, warm clothing, water and fodder making conditions even worse for both the human and animals.”

Islamic Relief teams have a history of reaching out to crises situations such as this one. We are committed to helping the people and has started our earthquake response.

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