Balochistan earthquake: Relief campaign yet to gain momentum

Published: September 30, 2013

Ration collected for the Balochistan earthquake victims at a centre. PHOTO: WAQAS NAEEM

ISLAMABAD: Donations for the Balochistan Earthquake victims are trickling in from the federal capital, albeit slowly.

A scant amount of donated rations were lined up neatly against the back wall of the storage section at the Fatima Jinnah Park, where the Pakistan Army has established a donation collection centre.

Collected over just eight hours since the centre opened on Sunday morning, the donated items — sacks of flour and rice, boxes of tea and ghee, lentils and crates of juice boxes — barely filled one-thirds of the 15 by 10 feet storage space.

It is a start, nevertheless. But perhaps a greater humanitarian effort is required from the capital’s population to help the hundreds of quake-affected people in Balochistan’s Awaran district, some residents and private relief workers said.

The media could play a vital role in mobilising humanitarian relief, said Mrs Farhat Nigar, an Islamabad resident, who delivered packets of uncooked lentils at the Fatima Jinnah Park collection centre on Sunday evening.

“It seems the Pakistani broadcast media have ignored the plight of the earthquake victims so far,” Nigar said. “But the media could help create mass awareness about the need for relief work.”

She said establishing more donation collection centres could also help increase the number of relief goods donated. Nigar said it was “absolutely necessary” to help those affected.

The 7.7-magnitude earthquake killed over 300 people and leveled houses in the Awaran district of Balochistan on September 24. It was followed by another 7.2-magnitude earthquake, with its epicenter in Khuzdar, on Saturday which added to the death and destruction.

Pakistan Youth Alliance (PYA) — a national youth-run organisation that has been actively engaged in rights movements and disaster relief since 2007 — is also collecting funds in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Ishaque Badshah, a PYA member, said he felt people in the twin cities were willing to contribute to relief work but were mistrustful of the government and were unsure which private organisation to contact.

“I think the media and Internet could be used to build trust by showing people actual relief activities,” Badshah said. “Donors have a right to know how their money is being used.”

He said PYA was primarily collecting cash and then using it to buy relief goods from Karachi which are then transported via road to the affected areas.

According to PYA’s Facebook page, the organisation has almost completed its first trip to Bela in Awaran district where it claimed to have helped around 50 households.

An officer of the Pakistan Army, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak with the media, said water bottles and dry food items such as dates, biscuits and powdered milk were some of the top items people can donate.

The officer said donated items from the Islamabad and Rawalpindi centre, which is set up at the Racecourse ground, would be dispatched as soon as considerable stock of items is accumulated.

Pakistan Army has delivered around 70 tonnes of rations to the affected area so far, the officer said.

Badshah said according to Awaran locals, the affected people were also in dire need of medicines and shelter tents. He said as the weather grows cold, blankets and quilts will be required to help the communities affected by the earthquake.

Contact details for relief efforts

Prime Minister’s Balochistan Earthquake Relief Fund 2013: Donations can be deposited in the State Bank treasuries, all branches of National Bank and all branches of Scheduled Banks.

Pak Army collection centre in Islamabad: Fatima Jinnah Park Gate #3 (Margalla Road)

Pak Army collection centre in Rawalpindi: Polo Ground/Racecourse, Peshawar Road, Rawalpindi

Pakistan Youth Alliance: https://www.facebook.com/PakistanYouthAlliance

Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2013.

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