Much needed to mitigate suffering of calamity-hit Chitralis

Chitral’s inhabitants, including 69% Sunni Muslims, 31% Ismaili Muslims and about 2,000 households of the ancient Kalash tribe, have been facing “the wrath of nature” in form of all the above calamities since 2010 when floods destroyed hundreds of households.

Since then the frequency of the occurrences have increased and in 2015 many people lost their precious lives in addition to losses to properties on high scale due to flood in the last two weeks of July and the high magnitude earthquake on October 26. Government agencies and dozens of NGOs reached the people in the aftermath of both the calamities and were successful in providing emergency relief to a certain extent but their rescue and relief rhetoric seemed more eloquent in the media than on the ground.

Moreover, criminal silence about rehabilitation and restoration on part of the stakeholders is a concern for the affectees and must be one for international community and the other stakeholders. The affected people shivering in tents in freezing temperatures with piled up relief items by their side look towards a messiah, who could give them shelters which may inhibit the harsh temperatures from piercing the fragile bodies of their infants and aged. It is said God helps those who help themselves but helping those who can’t help themselves is more noble in the sight of God.

I am writing the following lines in order to bring the plight of the calamity-hit people of Chitral into the notice of the global community with the hope that it may help the privileged, if there are any, to extend their assistance to the less-privileged, who are living under abject conditions after the calamities of 2015. The following line presents a look at the two high intensity destructions which Chitral witnessed during 2015 and the response by different stakeholders followed by some suggestion which may be helpful in rehabilitating the affectees.

Floods of July-Aug 2015 During the third and fourth weeks of July 2015, different parts of Chitral were hit by glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) which resulted in highly destructive torrents and flash floods washing away anything on its way. Villages, roads, bridges, water supply installations, powerhouses, livestock, privates business, schools, mosques, jamat khanas were destroyed. Besides destroying agricultural lands, the whole process left 293 houses fully damaged and 154 partially damaged in lower Chitral and another 510 houses fully damaged and 529 partially damaged in upper Chitral.

Whereas, six and 29 people lost their lives in lower and upper Chitral, respectively. Snapshot of sectoral-based damages and the required fund for recovery is given in the following table. The information is taken from government sources except serial number 13, which has no mention in the report published by the concerned govt agency.The effectiveness of government response to this calamity was evident from the fact that financial relief announced by the government were not provided to the effectees till the time when another calamity in form of the October 26 earthquake hit Chitral. During his visit to Chitral in the aftermath of the earthquake, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took notice of the delay in providing the announced amount to the owner of the perished houses that the administration woke from slumber and expedited the process of giving the cheques.

NGOs like FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance and Al-Khidmat Foundation were seen in providing relief to the affectees. However, till date the affectees are living in tents with an added sorrow gained from the earthquake. The local people and volunteers also took part and rendered valuable services in relief and rescue operations. Thanks to the sense of voluntarism which does not lack in the people of this under-privileged part of the world. Earthquake October 2015 On October 26, 2015, an earthquake of 7.5 magnitude on Richter scale with epicenter in Hindukush near northeastern Afghanistan struck areas of Pakistan. The Meteorological Department of Pakistan reported about 120 aftershocks of varying magnitudes felt across Pakistan but more intensive in KP (13 districts) of Pakistan especially Chitral. In the process, 188 lives were lost and 1,138 were injured in the KP province.

The earthquake played havoc in the area, including irreparable loss to lives, destroying residential houses, farmland and livestock, Government buildings, water supply and irrigation schemes, Roads and bridges and energy infrastructures. Based on the sector wise need-based recovery assessment of KP government, the government needs 317.97 USD during the coming two years for recovery of the affected areas from the earthquake. Sector wise distribution of recovery needs as identified by the KPk government is as follows:The earthquake and aftershocks were severely felt in many districts of KP and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB); however, the intensity in Chitral was extraordinary because of its proximity to the Hidukush range, says, the KP government.

The government is right in reporting the intensity of the destruction in Chitral but miserably failed to identify the number of fully and partially damaged houses. This lethargy is perhaps because of giving itself relief from the burden of compensation which it is going to pay for the fully and partially damaged houses or due to the apathy involved in the survey conducted by government officials. The government has announced compensation package for the earthquake victims, viz; USD 5725.72, USD 1908.57 and USD 954.29 each for a deceased, fully damaged and partially damaged houses respectively. An additional amount of USD 1908.57 has been declared to be the right of those who may have lost their leg or limb. Even the survey of the affectees conducted by the NGOs is not accurate.

There have been even public agitations against the survey conducted by an organization as prestigious as FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance. The report published by Provincial Disaster Management Authority on December 7, 2015, shows 3,378 fully damaged and 15,921 partially damaged houses in Chitral. The same report identified 33 deaths and 200 injured. This is ridiculous, one can agree with the report as far as the statistic about the fully damaged houses and human losses are concerned but the figure about partially damaged houses is far from truth. As many as 90% of houses are partially damaged in form of cracks in walls, having 2 to 5 inches separation of wall from each other which the government is not ready to consider.

The survey has not taken into consideration such damages. I personally know poor people who came to me to write applications for them addressing the government authorities to include their names in the partially damaged list but no one paid any heed to their grievances. A 75-year-old widow from my village, who survived the earthquake when the villagers came to rescue her under the debris of the razed boundary wall of her mud-constructed house, came to me to accompany her to the administration office to get relief items for her. She couldn’t keep pace with me on walking to administration office. Unable to walk properly due to pain in her legs and back, because of surviving under the razed wall, she reached the office in an hour which otherwise is a distance of about five minutes.

This widow never got any relief despite of her feeble struggles. This is the situation of poor affectees living in the administrative headquarters, what to say of those living miles away from it. The following table illustrates the sector based costs in USD for rehabilitation in Chitral as identified by the provincial government report. The report takes into account partially and fully damaged infrastructure but do not gives any figure as to the cost of reconstruction and rehabilitation of damaged houses. However, data on Rehabilitation and Reconstruction cost on damaged houses could be provided to interested organizations and individuals who may want to involve in any way in reconstruction and rehabilitation process.As for as the damaged houses are concerned, which have not been identified in the above table, a help of 5 t0 6 thousand USD and 2 to 3 thousand USD each for every fully damaged and partially damaged houses respectively could help in rehabilitation and reconstruction of each respectively in addition to the Pakistan government’s promised amount. The affectees looking towards the government, NGOs, donor agencies for help in the reconstruction of their damaged houses, which could start in March once snow recedes.

External response and shortcomings The aftermath of both the calamities witnessed external responses from the government and NGOs. Few NGOs reached Chitral in the relief and rescue phase and their number exceeded a dozen in the aftermath of the Earthquake. These included the subsidiary organs of the AKDN, especially the FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance Pakistan, Karachi Welfare Trust, Al-Khidmat Foundation, CRS, Islamic Relief, HANDS, WFP and others to name a few. The relief which these NGOs provided were food Items, kitchen utensils, cash by some NGOs extending to the limit of 143.14 USD to each household in selected areas, tents, warm garments and the like things. All these were laudable, but were not sufficient to help the effectees who are living in tents in freezing temperature. The urgent need was of temporary shelters which were never provided. However, FOCUS is saying that it will provide shelters in the coming few weeks. Perhaps it is waiting for the freezing temperature to recede! Another NGO – perhaps Karachi Trust – is providing shelter but requires the affectees to contribute some 50% of the total cost in the installation of the one-room shelter.

There were some short comings as well, of the external response. Lack of correct survey and delay, inefficiency and mishandling in the distribution of relief items tops the list of the external response shortcomings. In many instances, provision of the same items by different stakeholders piled up bags of flour in an affectees possession with no rice to boil. Furthermore, no agency paid any attention to provide emergency shelters which are still direly needed, for people are living in tents amid snow. If the people are alive under such circumstances is due perhaps to the hope of any assistance in the coming few months. Under this sorry state of affairs, the involved stakeholder must expedite their activities to provide emergency shelters and it is the moral responsibility of everyone to play our part in helping the really deserving poor people of Chitral. What you can do It is a moral obligation of everyone to help others in need you can do much in any capacity you are in. You may be an individual donor, an NGO, a trust, a think tank, a policy making body or any individual with no personal capacity to fund, but can raise the concerns of the poor affectees in relevant platforms who may help them. If you are an NGO/trust/think tank, policy body or research institution: In any of the above capacity you can help

  • by donating for rehabilitation in consultation with relevant stakeholders.
  • Undertaking a neutral survey to identify affectees who for some reason have been left by previous government and NGOs surveys.
  • Assisting already involved stakeholders or through self initiatives in identifying medium, short and long term measures to deal with such occurrences immediately and in future. These my include possibility of constructing low cost earthquake proof houses/infrastructure by keeping in view the practices of communities across the globe who are more prone to earthquake and other natural disasters. 
  • Addressing the fear and mental concerns which the people harbor in mind due to frequent occurrences of natural disasters. The people live in perpetual atmosphere of fear, which adversely affect their health. Pre and post-disaster mental preparation and rehabilitation training/workshops/sessions could be one activity. 
  • Extending your expertise and research to undertake research regarding glacial lake outburst floods etc. 
  • Extending your jurisdiction/area of activity to the affectees. If you are an individual donor: In this capacity, you can share your sympathies with the people by donating to the organizations working in the area. Transparency, a crucial factor for efficacy, must be sought and mechanism must be enacted before extending donations to organization.

Many NGOs, civil society organizations, local support organizations are active. Connecting with them could bring positive repercussions. If you are not a donor: Not everyone could be a donor. You may be a student, a writer, a researcher etc. In any capacity you can raise the concerns of the people in your own circles, in print and electronic media and in other number of forum. Giving general awareness to the people clearly informing them about ground realities could be effective in facilitating others to extend their attention to the affectees.

Mother Teresa once famously said, “I alone cannot change the world. But I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples”. The ripples crated by your endeavors may become a precursor of the breeze of happiness which the calamity hit people of Chitral are waiting for. Currently, most of the dwellers of the fully damaged houses are living in tents in freezing temperatures. If nature inflicts no more cruelties they will withstand the harsh weather and in March they will start reconstructing their abodes. The people looking towards each and every one of us to help them in whatever capacity we are through whatever means we could.

11 Replies to “Much needed to mitigate suffering of calamity-hit Chitralis”

  1. I appreciate Muhammad Jalaludin Kamil’s article as a very well written one with detailed figures and data. If we ask for aid we must provide full information of the needs and he has done this well. However in a subsequent comment Jalaludin sahib mentioned the word “nation’s dignity”. How can a beggar nation be a dignified nation. These two words simply connote opposite impressions. Whether it is the UN, a country, an NGO, or Chitral or an individual, a beggar is a beggar. He may be a smart beggar but can never be a dignified beggar. I feel the way to safeguard the dignity of our nation is to stop spreading out our palms and look for free aid givers all the time. ‘jachtay nehin bakhshay huway firdous nazar mey , Janat meri pinhan hey meray khoon e jigar mey’ – Thankyou

  2. I think the major reason for these flash floods were not glacial lake outburst. the whole world experienced a slight increase in temperature and our Chitral was also affected. before that there were no monsoon rains in our region and it was the first time in Chitral that these monsoon rains entered due to rise in temperature and caused torrential rains.

  3. Dear Fardad Sahab, in a democratic dispensation you are justified to say many things but not justified to say things which may harm the dignity of a nation.
    I have seen poor people, who have lost all their poorly belonging under the debris, I have seen their tears, I have seen their miseries. I have seen the poor people in Yarkhun and Mulkhow during the floods and seen the plight of the poor during the earthquake throughout the width and breadth of Chitral.
    There is a difference between begging and humanitarian based appeals. You may not say AKRSP, SRSP, Al-Khidmat, Edhi Foundation and even the govt of Pakistan as beggars when they appeal for help in times of calamities. If so the UN is the most exalted beggar when it struggles to consolidate funds to help meet the MDGs, victims of Ebola Virus, Zinka Virus, the displaced of Syrian crisis and for the starved children of the Sub-Saharan Africa. Can the govt of Pakistan be termed a beggar when it struggles to acquires foreign grants and loans.
    I don’t want to indulge in comments and counter comments anymore. But this comment was necessary for you have damaged a noble cause and were not fair towards a people who are famous for their dignity.

    1. Dear Jalal, Very well written. You have highlighted so many things in a coherent manner.
      With regards to Fardad Sahab’s comment, i think his motive was not to harm nation’s dignity. I believe that to stand on one’s own feet is the highest form of dignity. Yes we need donor’s assistance to help the situation get better BUT donor’s funds are never the long term solution. The longest term solution is always to stand on one’s feet, strive for self sustenance and build our own resources.
      (Again, you are an excellent writer sir).

  4. Sympathies are with the aggrieved people and I’m all for their help and repatriation in the hour of a challenging time. Having said that, through my experience I have observed that Chitralis despite having many positive attributes in other respects, are nevertheless always out to sell their miseries and demand sympathy for all their troubles from the government, NGOs or philanthropists. I think we should promote the culture of standing on our own feet and fighting our troubles with our own hands. ‘Easier said than done’, but we can at least begin a transformation of our mindset from being compulsive beggars to people willing to work hard to help themselves first.

  5. Jalal bhai,IT is admirable,highly impressive and most appealing artical and also very initiative good effort and very great sympathy with calamity victims chitralis,but that time scene was different affected people that time at the mercy of Assessment person,everyone did make assessement after one’s own heart every surveyor took keen interest in their relatives and puted victims people in the backseat,therefore the situation happened like that people opperessed by the flood and quake look forward for government and NGO’s monetary relief,but the Surveyor person avoided some people again and again,here selfless person and social workers are very rare in the world every one for himself here,anyway you made very initiative effort,keep it up.

  6. Well done Jalal Ud Din, it is very comprehensive effort you have deeply explored through your hectic research.
    we had also recommended some points when we felt lacking coordination while facing the disasters. summary was as under ( It was some lengthy)
    Disaster Risk Reduction day was celebrated by AKRSP Chitral
    CHITRAL THINKER’S FORUM WARNS all stakeholders as following.
    · Preemption (Expect the unexpected)
    · Carbon shower on the Glaciers. . so DE-GLACIATION
    · Uncontrolled DEFORESTATION
    · Uncontrolled GRAZING
    · Dragging Trunks, Timbers and beams of woods/Fuel which Scrape, scratch and destroys the soil making it vulnerable to flood.
    · Passage Blockades for Free flow of flood
    o Lack of PLANNING
    o Lack of COORDINATION
    o UNSCIENTIFIC Planning and ENGINEERING Faults.
    o RANDOM execution of Projects
    o Preemption^ Control
    o DE- GLACIATION WILL CONTINUE when the causes are
    NOT MET.
    o EARTHQUAKE. . The Area falls in Seismic Zone
    o Forestation
    o Check Dams by Local people
    o Free Flood Flow PASSAGE
    2) A single BODY SHOULD LEAD comprising the REP of the following in congruity, without sacrificing their personal/organizational interests, Ego and merit to AVOID duplication. Mismanaging, randomization and losing Human, Material Resources and arousing public sentiments.
    NDMA, PDMA, DDMA, Army, CCDN, DCO, Distt: Govt, DRC, AKRSP, SRSP, FOCUS, Al Khidmat, HASHOO, Police, Borders, DPHO, C^W, FOREST Deptt, Chitral Goal Project, Hilal Ahmar (Red Crescent). . all Resources should be mobilized with ONE Central Org out of this clusters. 21 Bodies of Orgs
    1) Leading Role
    2) Coordinated Planning
    3) Coordinated Execution
    4) Prioritization
    5) Technocratic ^ Alternative Leadership
    6) Consolidation of RESOURCES
    · Rescue 100 % -Participation
    · Relief 50 % -Preparation
    · Rehabilitation 25 % – Restoration/Assessment
    · Re-Construction 25 % -Evaluation/Normalization
    CTF ROLE – Can help preparing an SOP, acceptable and
    executable. . For all

  7. We all know that life there in Chitral nowadays are very tough due to floods and earthquakes…People are in trauma and still waiting for help..In these days we should only keep this in mind that there is more happiness in giving than in receiving…We have to help them; if we are capable of that…and people never forget helping hands especially when times are rough…

  8. A very informative, analytical and well researched article. A very good sense of emotional attachment with chitral, a great sympathy with the underprivileged, ill fated poor communities of Chitral prone to natural calamities and abject poverty. A very good effort indeed, to attract national and international assistance to help out the affectees. Good job my friend keep it up…

  9. This is a very good summary of the sad situation still facing people in this area of North Pakistan.
    We visited the area in September 2015 and saw the devastation caused by the floods. It was obvious even then that a real effort would be needed to help people before winter arrived. Although some help came, it was clearly too little, too late or the wrong sort of help.
    The people have a hard life at the best of times. They do not have the resources to survive the numerous events that hit them in 2015. I am publicising the problems through my pictures and videos but the world does not seem interested enough.
    Stephen Wolstenholme.

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