IOM Teams Set Response Standards in Pakistan's Quake Zone

After receiving a call for urgent help from a vulnerable community in the Neelum valley in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, three IOM Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) based in Muzaffarabad rushed to the area.

The community in the village of Khanian were apparently suffering from a ‘water-borne disease’. With an approximate population of 5,000, children were suffering the most.

Following villagers’ claims that six children have died of the disease in just two days, RRT doctors carried out a rapid assessment of the area and found most of the children had diarrhoea or gastroenteritis-like symptoms.

Five serious cases along with their parents were evacuated immediately in IOM vehicles to AIMS Hospital Muzaffarabad, 20 kilometres from Khanian village. Sixteen more children from the village were taken to Muzaffarabad hospital by the evening after coordination with WHO, UNICEF and the hospital.

“At the village, we screened 50 cases in three hours and most of the serious patients were between the ages of one and five,” said Dr Abdul Waheed of Neelum Valley RRT.

“Doctors at the hospital have put the patients on life-saving drugs and conducted tests to determine the exact nature of the illness,” said Dr Farhan Naseem of Jheelum Valley RRT.

RRT doctors also discovered some villagers had pneumonia and gave them instant medical assistance before referring them to nearby health facilities.

The villagers complained to local and foreign journalists on the ground that nobody came to their help except IOM Rapid Response Teams.

The RRTs, supported by the American International Group Disaster Relief Fund (AIG DRF), are operational in 10 high-risk valleys in earthquake-affected areas which have seen heavy rains and snowfall in recent days.

The inclement weather has suspended helicopter relief flights and triggered landslides that have severed road links in different parts of the quake-affected areas. The heavy rains have also flooded streets with rainwater paralysing life in many cities across the country.

With temperatures already falling below freezing during the nights and weather pundits predicting that current rain and snowfall will continue for a few more days, concerns are growing over the health safety of those affected by the earthquake last year.

As part of its efforts to ensure people stay healthy and safe during the winter, the RRTs have been working to strengthen health care capacities in the region. First aid and first response training to nearly 3,000 students, teachers and community members in more than 27 sessions were carried out over a month.