Two armies join forces
Salvation Army and Pakistan military bring relief to area hit by earthquake.
Captain Macdonald Chandi is led through earthquake devastation by a Pakistani military officer. Photo courtesy International Headquarters
Working in partnership with Pakistani military authorities, The Salvation Army has initiated services to those in desperate need in Pakistan, providing them with shelter, blankets, cooking equipment and food.
The earthquake—the worst disaster in Pakistan’s history—has left at least 54,000 (some sources estimate 80,000) dead and hundreds of thousands injured and/or homeless.
Pakistan’s challenging terrain has slowed the arrival of aid—roads are destroyed and the steep-sided valleys surrounded by huge, crumbling rocks are treacherous.
Thanks to a partnership with the Pakistani military, The Salvation Army delivered its initial shipment of relief supplies. The need is tremendous—inhabitants of several hundred villages require tents, heating fuel, stoves, water and health care. Survivors are living outside, in the cold.
Compounding the problem, bodies remain buried under the rubble.
Led by Commissioners Gulzar Patras and Sheila Gulzar, The Salvation Army in Pakistan is well placed to provide vital assistance, with 50,000 soldiers, more than 130 churches, and numerous social services present in the country.
The Army’s earthquake relief team in Pakistan—including Lt. Colonel Cedric Sharp (chief secretary, Pakistan Territory) and International Emergency Services representatives Captain Macdonald Chandi and Major David Wakefield—traveled to the northern town of Abbotabad. They took with them two fully-laden trucks carrying 92 tents, 250 family packs which included a week’s dry rations for a family of two adults and eight children, plates, glasses, spoons, cooking utensils, water, 300 blankets and numerous other relief items.
In Abbotabad a local representative briefed the team, expressing deep concern about the lack of effective relief work, particularly in the Balakot area where 200,000 tents are desperately needed. Some tented camps had been set up but nowhere near enough, and many areas had not yet been reached.
The Salvation Army set up a tented camp in the Balakot area for 92 selected families, providing them with immediate shelter, blankets, cooking equipment and food to last for a week. The provision of relief supplies would continue for at least three/four months.
Because of the transportation difficulties, the local contact indicated that it could be months before all the bodies are recovered and the rehabilitation and reconstruction stage can begin.
“The first impression of Balakot,” writes Major Wakefield, “was of utter destruction, confusion and chaos. There is hardly a building standing or any space between what was a structure and what might have been a road or lane. There was no evidence of the major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) … apart from the Red Cross, which had established a field hospital just outside Balakot.”
In Balakot, the team was unable to locate their contact and after discussions with a military officer in charge, a decision was made to work with the Pakistan Army in the initial distribution of supplies. The military transported the relief material to the furthest point reachable by road; from there it was manhandled or packed on mules and carried the remaining five kilometers into the areas already controlled and surveyed by the military.
The ninety-two families receiving Salvation Army aid had been surveyed and considered as being in the greatest need. Accompanying the military personnel into the area, Army team members completed distribution of the supplies.
“The area is totally devastated,” reports team leader Captain Macdonald Chandi. “Many houses have dropped below the level of the road or into their own land. Cars have been trapped underneath collapsed buildings and not all the remains of people who died have been removed. Masks have to be worn and spraying is going on constantly.”
The assistance provided by the military has been speedy and efficient. Major Wakefield reports: “The military have given us full support since we first made contact. They have shown total commitment to looking after the affected, they have been patient with the hundreds of people who approach them for help almost every minute of the day and they have shown the greatest of courtesies to all the team members. We cannot speak highly enough of their help and cooperation—they are a real credit to Pakistan.”
Thus all Salvation Army relief work in the foreseeable future will be in conjunction with the military in the Balakot region. They have already surveyed the most badly affected areas and they know who the neediest people are. Those who need ongoing assistance can easily be followed up through the military network.
Any consideration of long-term development proposals would be premature. The military officials are not expecting any long-term reconstruction and rehabilitation to begin until the roads are clear and secure. This may not happen for another six months.–Excepted from an IHQ news release