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Pakistan: No joy on Eid-al-Fitr for quake-affected families

© UNICEF Pakistan/2005/Zaidi
On the eve of the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Fitr, traditionally a joyous time, Musara buried her 12-year-old son, Awaiz Asmat, who was killed in the earthquake.

By Martin Dawes

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan, 8 November 2005 - Two days before the traditionally joyous Muslim festival Eid-al-Fitr was to begin, soldiers found the body of 12-year-old Awaiz Asmat.

His body was pulled out of the rubble at the Government Pilot High School in Muzaffarabad, where Awaiz Asmat was a fourth grade student.

As others around her prepared to celebrate Eid, Awaiz’ mother Musara buried her son in the suit she had bought him as a present. “At least now, I have a grave where I can pray,” said the grieving mother, tears streaming down her face. “Awaiz was going to get new pair of shoes for Eid this year.”

Preventing disease

Stories like this are common in Muzaffarabad, a town 90 per cent destroyed by the massive earthquake four weeks ago. The disaster killed more than 73,000 people in Pakistan, and left more than 1.7 million people homeless, half of them children.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2005/Zaidi
Jaida Bibi prepares food for her children. On the day of the earthquake, she and her two children escaped from under the rubble of their home after being trapped for three hours.

At a tent camp for displaced people, Jaida Bibi prepares bread for her son and daughter. “With so many deaths around and when we have lost everything, how can we enjoy Eid?” asks Jaida. “We will try to prepare some sweets for the children, but we can’t afford to buy meat at a time like this.” On the day the earthquake struck, Jaida and her children were trapped for three hours under their collapsed house, before they managed to escape to safety.

As many as 4 million people have been affected by the 8 October earthquake. UNICEF is working to make sure that people in tented encampments and villages have access to clean water and proper sanitation. In these conditions the threat of disease is never far away and UNICEF is watching for it.

Funds still urgently needed

The organization has set up tent schools to minimize the disruption of children’s education, and is developing special programmes to address their psychological needs. UNICEF is also mounting a rapid vaccination campaign against measles; more than 300,000 children have already been immunized.

“We are now engaged in a massive and sustained response, aimed at ensuring the survival of children,” said UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Omar Abdi. “This is just the start, and even with the approaching winter, we are determined to make sure that the most vulnerable earthquake victims get through this very difficult time and receive the care and education they deserve and need.”

Food assistance for more than 2 million people, winterized tents, sleeping bags, latrines, and clean water are urgently needed. UNICEF has issued an appeal of some $92.6 million to help children and families who are in dire need. To date less than half of this amount has been received.




3 November 2005:
UNICEF’s Martin Dawes reports on the situation in Pakistan’s quake-affected areas on the eve of Eid-al-Fitr.

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