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Bleak Eid holiday for earthquake-affected children

© UNICEF video
Children at a UNICEF temporary school at Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, set up to replace permanent schools destroyed in the quake.

By Kitty Logan

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan, 12 January 2006 – Eid al-Adha is the most important date in the calendar for Muslims all over the world. As elsewhere, families in Pakistan traditionally come together to share food and gifts. Children are usually given new clothes.

But people who were made homeless by the 8 October 2005 earthquake are struggling to celebrate this year. Many are trying to cope with difficult conditions in camps. Instead of the usual feast, most are only able to cook simple food in front of their tents. There are no resources for gifts for children.

In school for the first time

Ten-year-old Sobhia and her family once had everything they needed – a home in the city of Muzaffarabad and a normal life together. The Eid holiday was something to look forward to. But now it is a painful reminder that the family is no longer together. Sobhia’s brother was killed in the earthquake.

Now the family has to face the future and take care of those who have survived. Sobhia’s sister wraps her baby brother in thick blankets – a donation received by all those who now live in the camp.

© UNICEF video
Children in class at a UNICEF temporary school at Muzaffarabad, Pakistan.

UNICEF’s Agostino Paganini, who is a senior coordinator for the emergency relief effort, says that despite the bleak picture during Eid, much has been done that has prevented life from becoming even worse for earthquake survivors.

“The most obvious improvement is the availability of sanitation facilities, safe water for people, blankets and clothing,” he says. “And – so important – 80 per cent of the young girls in camps are now in school for the first time. And that opens up to them a whole new perspective in life.”

Emotional support

Icy air rushes from the mountain river as children run across the camp to line up for school. Sobhia and her classmates chant traditional songs to start the day. They are attending a UNICEF tent school in the camp because, like many others, their school was destroyed. But at least Sobhia can study again and girls like her now have an equal opportunity to learn, which was not always the case in the past.

Teachers also give vital emotional support at a time when families are already overstretched meeting the basic requirements for survival. School can be a place to forget about the misery of camp life. Sobhia laughs and jokes with her classmate as she flicks through her books – part of UNICEF supplies provided to hundreds of makeshift schools all over the earthquake region.

Sobhia even has a moment to think about the future. She says she wants to become a teacher herself one day.




12 January 2006:
UNICEF’s Kitty Logan reports on Eid al-Adha in Pakistan’s earthquake zone.

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