Remoteness of deadly Pakistan earthquake thwarts aid
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2005:
KARACHI–An earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale
killed more than 30,000 people and countless animals on October 5,
2005 in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.
The remoteness of the region, lack of established animal
welfare infrastructure anywhere in Pakistan, and lack of official
interest in helping animals thwarted prompt response by international
“I just got back to Karachi after spending two weeks filming
in Balakot.” e-mailed Pakistan Animal Welfare Society representative
and Geo TV assistant producer Mahera Omar on November 11.
Omar, more than a month after the earthquake, was nonetheless among
the first pro-animal representatives to bring back first-hand
testimony about what is needed.
“Balakot is a small town in the North West Frontier Province,
about 60 miles north of Islamabad,” Omar explained. “Located near
the quake’s epicenter, it is said to be among the worst devastated.
“We visited a few small villages up in the mountains around
Balakot,” Omar recounted. “The people in these areas depend on
subsistence farming and their livestock. Many of the livestock have
been killed. The rest are without any sort of shelter. Many people
are still without tents. Some have provided makeshift shelters for
their animals, using cloth or plastic sheets. Without shelter,
their livestock will not survive the harsh winter. The animals also
require veterinary care.
“Tent villages have been established in the towns,” Omar
said, but “the majority are not willing to leave their land and
livestock. At this time of the year,” Omar added, “the yearly
migration of people and their animals from the mountains to the
plains is underway. On the main road from Kaghan/Naran to Mansera,
we saw many families on the move, usually with a few donkeys, cows,
buffaloes, goats, sheep, and a dog or two. Baby goats and lambs
born on the move were often carried on donkey’s backs, or were
carried by the people in their arms. Pregnant animals get no rest.
Neither are they able to receive any veterinary care along the way.
“At night they move in pitch dark. Sometimes they stop by
the side of the highway. They burn discarded relief clothing for
warmth. Shepherds often collect the sweaters and shirts and put them
on their goats. Many goats we saw were constantly coughing. The
shepherds too are facing a crisis,” Omar noted, “as the price of
their animals has fallen drastically,” since no one has any money.
“They do not know how they will survive.
“The international animal welfare community needs to be
urgently mobilized to provide assistance to the animals in the
affected areas,” Omar opined. “Apart from the World Society for the
Protection of Animals and the Brooke Hospital for Animals, no other
animal welfare organizations that I am aware of are providing
Omar was aware of rescue work individually sponsored by
Pakistani/American veterinarian I.M. Kathio, who operates
dog-and-cat sterilization clinics in both nations.
“Food is now available for both people and animals in most
places,” Omar observed. “Providing shelter ought to become a
priority, before the severe winter weather sets in at the end of
November. Snow is already falling in some areas. More mobile
veterinary teams need to be sent out to the remote villages, and
most importantly, the Pakistani veterinary community needs to be
encouraged to play their role.”
The Brooke Hospital for Animals, maintaining a veterinary
mission in Pakistan since 1991, dispatched a reconnaissance team to
Balakot on October 11.
“The Brooke is the largest animal welfare organisation in
Pakistan,” said Brooke public relations chief Nikki Austin. “Last
year we helped a quarter of a million working horses, donkeys, and
mules across five regions of the country, including Peshawar, a
large city close to the affected regions, and over the border in
“The Brooke has helped such communities in the past,” Austin
continued, “when it sent veterinary teams to Gujarat, India after a
devastating earthquake in 2001, and in 2002 aided the animals of
Afghan refugees in camps along the Pakistan border.”
WSPA deployed five veterinary teams to Pakistan on October
14, said spokesperson Sarah Pickering.
“Working from two base camps shared by military personnel and
other international NGOs in the heart of the affected area, WSPA is
delivering emergency veterinary first aid, vaccinating animals
against leptospirosis and rabies, and providing food supplements,”
Other organizations’ efforts to assist in Pakistan ran afoul–in
different ways–of the local utilitarian view of animals.
Animal Save Movement of Pakistan president Khalid Mahmood
Quereshi e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE an urgent request for aid,
intended that the request should be circulated to the major charity
representatives at the International Companion Animal Welfare
Conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Apparently presuming that even animal welfare charities would
put human needs first, Quereshi including nothing on his itemized
list of needs for human victims that any of the participants could
have funded with money donated to help non-humans.
Humane Society International representative Sherry Grant
hoped to help in Pakistan after completing a commitment to assist in
the aftermath of a cyclone and flash floods that in October
repeatedly struck the Visakha SPCA in Visakhapatnam, India.
Stopping in Sri Lanka, en route to Visakhapatnam, Grant
applied for a visa to enter Pakistan, and while waiting to be
interviewed, “managed a friendly chat, unknown to me at the time,
with the High Commissioner of the Pakistan Consulate,” she e-mailed
“I must have said something right about the work we have done
in Sri Lanka and family values,” Grant guessed, as she got a visa
while another charity representative interviewed just ahead of her
“There was concern and aggravation that I would want to work
with animals over people,” Grant continued. “I explained the