Pakistan: Urgent medical needs follow Balochistan earthquake

Home News And Events Pakistan: Urgent medical needs follow Balochistan earthquake

Patrick Fuller, IFRC

Thousands of people have spent a second night in the open following the devastating earthquake which killed 350 people and injured over 500 in a remote, mountainous area of Balochistan, southwest Pakistan.

The 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck at 4.29pm local time on Tuesday, 24th September, 69 kilometers northeast of the town of Awaran, bringing down hundreds of mud-brick homes. It’s estimated that 300,000 people are spread across six affected districts.

The army has mobilised food supplies, medical teams and tents from the regional capital Quetta. The lack of medical facilities in the affected area has meant that seriously injured people have to be airlifted to hospitals in Karachi and other towns.

Not only is the region remote, but security concerns mean that both the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are unable to directly conduct humanitarian operations in the area. However, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society has a well-established network on the ground and is able to operate freely.

On Wednesday, a team from the Red Crescent’s nearest disaster management cell in Lasbela district was deployed to the affected area. Two further disaster response teams from the adjoining districts of Kharan and Gwadar have been mobilized and a team from the Red Crescent provincial headquarters in Quetta will be deployed today along with two health teams with ambulances.

“The Red Crescent has disaster preparedness stocks in the region that can be mobilized rapidly, but the biggest challenge is reaching the affected area,” says Mike Higginson, acting head of delegation for the IFRC in Pakistan. Most of the Red Crescent supply hubs are hundreds of kilometres away. “It takes between 18-20 hours to travel to Awaran from Quetta and it’s unclear how many villages surrounding the epicentre still haven’t been reached. Some may not be accessible by road.”

The Sindh Branch of the Red Crescent is also supporting relief efforts. A medical team has been deployed at Awaran today via helicopter in coordination with the National Disaster Management Authority.

At this stage, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society is planning to support about 7,000 people with emergency shelter support in the form of tents and tarpaulins as well as essential non-food items including blankets, kitchen sets and plastic jerry-cans.

Given the scale of destruction, further anticipated needs are most likely to be materials for building transitional shelters, health and care services and further supplies of food and essential non-food items.