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KLWT IDPs Relief


The road from Balakot onwards into the Kaghan Valley had remained blocked for more than a month after the earthquake. There were massive landslides between Kawai and Ghanol, which were a major challenge for the Army Corps of Engineers to overcome. With no road link to the majority of the Kaghan Valley north of Kawai, desperate conditions had been created with difficulties in both getting relief goods to the earthquake survivors and the ability of the local inhabitants to evacuate/migrate themselves out from the Valley.

Once the main road of the Kaghan Valley had been opened to Jeepable traffic, which is still the situation today, we came to know that there were still off-shoot valleys that were landlocked. One such valley was Bhunja Valley, a cluster of approximately 50 Villages, with a population of around 15,000 inhabitants, 4Km crows flight inwards in a south eastwardly direction from Faridabad on the main Kaghan Road. A Need Assessment visit was arranged with the help of Dr Jamil Yusuf, whose ancestral village was Seri Bagh, a hamlet in the Bhunja Valley. Dr Jamil Yusuf had made tremendous contributions by personally working in Bhunja immediately after the Earthquake.

Journey to Bhunja:

The only way to get in to Bhunja Valley is either by foot from Faridabad or by Helicopter. On 18th November, 2005, we boarded a Pakistan Army MI-17 helicopter at Shawal Najaf (Balakot) for a free ride to Bhunja. We left at 11:15 AM and arrived after a short detour shortly after noon.

En route, the aerial view presented a different horizon to the magnitude of the devastation. The total destruction of Balakot took on a new meaning. Furthermore, there were make shift shelters or tents scattered everywhere, even on seemingly inaccessible hilltops.

Findings in Bhunja Valley:

 • 100% of the households and buildings were either totally demolished or uninhabitable.

 • There were a total of five schools (4 Government run and one private). There were separate primary schools for Girls and Boys, but the Middle School (upto Grade 8) was a co-education. All have been destroyed and there is currently no schooling. The schools normally close for a longer winter break starting in mid-December and re-open in March.

 • About 60% of the population had already migrated to lower lying areas like Balakot, Mansehra and Abbotabad. Many more were planning to leave within the next 15 days. It is estimated that more than 75% of the local population will leave the area to spend the winters in lower lying cities or with relatives working in various cities of Pakistan.

 • The corn crop, which is a major subsistence crop of the region, had been harvested or was in the final stages of harvest. It is expected that many of the remaining families would leave the area once they had harvested and stored their Maize crop.

 • Several household had already built make shift winter shelters out of the rubble of what was available from their destroyed homes. Most of such families were from those who were economically better off than others in the area. Many such families had “second” homes in some of the cities like Abbotabad and Mansehra.

 • It is anticipated that at least one family member from each household would remain behind during the winter to protect whatever belongings remained. Such individuals would be living under very difficult conditions.

 • Approximately 20% (+/- 5%) of family households were adamant NOT to leave the area for the winter period and were prepared to stay in their makeshift homes. The total population that would eventually remain throughout the winter months would be between 3,500 and 5,000 people. There are reasons for great concern for such families, especially for the very young and elderly.

• The approx 5-6 Km local link road from Faridabad (on the main Balakot - KaghanRoad) to Bhunja has been destroyed due to several landslides. The road on most ofthe landslides can be repaired using mechanised earth moving equipment. There is however one main landslide approx 1.5 to 2 Km from the main hamlet of SeriBagh towards Faridabad, which will require to be bypassed by routing the road alongside the Bhunja Nala river. This bypass section of the road would not be greater than 500m.

 • There are two wooden bridges on which the link road crosses over the Bhunja Nala River. These two bridges appear to be in sound structural condition but may not be able to bear the weight of very heavy earthmoving equipment. There are several landslides either side of these bridges, which would need consideration on whether or not heavy earthmoving equipment should be allowed to pass over these wooden bridges.

 • The revival of economic life will take some time in Bhunja. However, steps to bring about “normalcy” to those living in the area would require the link road to be re-opened. Without this road link being re-opened, the local community is 100% dependant on helicopter flights for everything from food, shelter, clothing, medical aid, etc. With the weather changing for the worse and a reduction in the number of available helicopters, this makes the opening of the link road a major priority. Other steps like encouraging water mill owners to re-establish their damaged water mills will allow local residents to use the corn harvested during the winter months in case food relief aid is suspended in the region. Local shop keepers who are willing to re-open their shops are unable to re-stock their shops after all their inventories have been sold or consumed due to the lack of a land/road link.

 • Confidence in the local Nazim was very low. Most local inhabitants had little or no expectations from him. He was not present in Bhunja for all the three days that we were in Bhunja.

 • A local community based organisation comprising of various village elders from several hamlets had gained some respect in the community and appeared to be the only organisation on ground prepared to fill in the gap created by the absent Nazim.

 • The Army at Bhunja had initially worked under difficult circumstances and were not well accepted by the locals. However, after continued efforts and persistence, the locals now understood the Army presence as the only real source of Aid. Based on our assessment, the Army is the only honest broker on ground.

 • There was limited damage or disruption to water sources in comparison to those seen in other earthquake-affected areas. Nevertheless, the lack of proper houses or shelters and limited water storage facilities has made sanitation and general cleanliness a low priority with the locals. This has resulted in an epidemic of Scabies and Impetigo, especially amongst the children.

 • There is no resident medical aid available to the entire Bhunja community. The local Basic Health Unit is destroyed and there was no doctor or healthworker available to the community. This fact, plus the winter ahead, may result in an epidemic spreading in the region. Many children and the elderly were already suffering from acute respiratory infections as a result of being exposed to the cold winter nights and poor shelter conditions. If they remained untreated, not only  would this spread more rampantly within the community, but also many children would develop acute life threatening conditions. During our stay at Bhunja we came across several cases of pneumonia to whom antibiotic treatment was prescribed.


 • Basic Relief Aid (food, shelter, warm clothing) would need to continue to be supplied by helicopter or animal transport to the local community throughout the winter months and for as long as a reliable land road route is not made available to the local population.

 • The local population needs to be encouraged to seek shelter in lower cities or tented villages like Jabba. However, most of the population had already migrated and others were to follow soon. However, it was clear that the vast majority of those who had intentions to migrate had done so with a minority of those remaining to follow.

 • A medical camp, manned by trained nurses or dispensers needs to be established with a qualified doctor visiting at least once a week. A resident local community lady health worker needs to be identified most immediately. None seemed to be present. >

 • The local link road between Bhunja and Faridabad needs to be reopened at all costs immediately.
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