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Birdlife adds to calls for earthquake relief

Devastated Palas community faces bitter winter

BirdLife is appealing for donations to send to the people of the Palas Valley in District Kohistan, North West Frontier Province (NWFP), not far from the epicentre of the earthquake which struck on 8th October. An estimated 80 people have been killed and over 100 badly injured, and 3000 people face the Himalayan winter without shelter.

Community organisations which BirdLife helped create are proving effective in delivering relief, and BirdLife will ensure that donations are sent directly to the Valley to buy food, blankets and other essentials. 80 people have been killed and over 100 badly injured, and 3,000 people face the Himalayan winter without shelter. Palas is of worldwide importance for its rich wildlife, but also one of the poorest places in Pakistan. Since 1992, BirdLife, in partnership with the Government of NWFP and WWF-Pakistan, has supported the Palas Conservation and Development Project (PCDP), working with tribal communities on sustainable forestry and agricultural, rural infrastructure and healthcare, as well as wildlife conservation.Many of the injured are in upper Palas which has been difficult to reach for treatment or evacuation. Access at any time is difficult – there are no roads beyond the mouth of the valley. Most houses have collapsed and about 3000 people are now living in the open. With the onset of the Himalayan winter, there is high risk of further deaths and disease. Women and children are in a state of shock, and pneumonia has been reported. Most displaced households have lost all belongings, including warm clothes and essentials like cooking utensils. Food is in short supply.

Immediately following the earthquake, the project team began emergency relief work, working with Oxfam and other agencies. The project has carried out helicopter reconnaissance, and is evacuating the seriously wounded by helicopter. The priorities are to complete the evacuation of the wounded and provide essential aid – tents, blankets and plastic sheets for the 3000 displaced families. Other urgent needs are for warm clothing, food and medicines, and for post-traumatic psychological treatment for those affected, especially children and women.

The emphasis of the project’s work in the past five years has been strengthening community based institutions at village level, and on networking these organisations to form an all-Palas federation (the Palas Conservation and Development Federation). “In the days since the earthquake this Federation has shown itself a capable and effective institution for delivering relief goods to the valley, demonstrating the value of investing in local institutions with their roots in the community,” said David Thomas, Head of BirdLife’s Site Action Unit.

BirdLife is also helping by channelling donations for the relief effort to the Palas Valley. Donations sent to BirdLife are being sent directly to Abbottabad, Pakistan, for the purchase of the relief goods needed by the people of Palas.

4th July 2014