The worst is not yet over for Awaran residents

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Hundreds and thousands of poorest of the poor, devastated by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on September 24, are suffering from various post-quake life-threatening epidemic diseases in this impoverished district of Balochistan.
However worrisome is the fact that out of the four, mostly mountainous, routes that lead to the six worst-affected union councils of this huge district, three are unusable, thanks to a shadowy insurgency movement and poor road infrastructure making the quake-affected areas inaccessible.
Mashkay, Gishkor, Teertaig, Awaran, Parwar and Nokjo, according to Helping Hand Relief and Development (HHRD) Country Director Fazlur Rehman, are the six worst-affected UCs. HHRD is an NGO active here and funded by US-based overseas Pakistanis.
EPIDEMICS THREATEN LIVES: Deputy District Health Officer Dr Mohammad Aslam, while treating patients in a makeshift medical camp here in Bedi Dal village, told Pakistan Today that the earthquake survivors were suffering from five major diseases including typhoid, malaria, dysentery, food poisoning and soar-throat.
Having treated over a hundred villagers so far, Dr Aslam said that the main reason for spreading of epidemics and other diseases in the least-developed neighbourhood was the use of unhygienic water and malnutrition.
WELLS CAVE IN: “All of the wells here have caved in due to the earthquake. The water available is not drinkable,” the health officer said.
Rahim Baloch, an 18-year-old undergraduate student in Bedi Dal village, said at least 15 wells had collapsed in the area.
“The water scarcity is acute. We depend on water tankers supplied by NRSP (an NGO),” Baloch told Pakistan Today.
PLIGHT OF WOMEN: The youth also complained about the absence of a lady doctor in his village that, he lamented, was making pregnancy-related issues more complicated.
“A woman was recently rushed to Karachi for delivery,” Baloch said. Dr Aslam seconded Baloch and lamented that there was only one lady doctor in the area. “Unfortunately, we only have one lady doctor who is based in the district headquarter. Deliveries here are carried out at home,” said the doctor.
The doctor said that 99 percent of the people’s houses had grounded and they were forced to live in the open. “This makes them vulnerable to mosquito bites that lead to life-threatening diseases like malaria,” he said.
Claiming that no patient had died post earthquake that left hundreds killed and thousands others homeless, the doctor cited lack of clean water, accommodation and malnutrition as major attributable factors for the spread of epidemics in the quake-hit areas.
UNHYGIENIC FOOD: Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center Medico-Legal Officer Dr Manzoor Memon was of the view that the diseases were also likely being caused by the perished eatables coming to the province from far flung areas in the relief goods.
He warned that some of the above-mentioned five diseases were water-borne in nature that may be deadly.
“Dehydration leads to renal failure that may cause death,” said the senior physician.
ALL IS WELL: Awaran District Commissioner Dr Muhammad Akbar Harifal, however, had a different version. He claimed that the government had responded so swiftly to the calamity that it had accessed all the areas with proper food and health facilities.
“That’s why we have no outbreak of epidemics in the quack-hit areas,” said the commissioner. He was appreciative of Edhi Foundation for being the first rescue agency to send some 20 of its ambulances to Awaran, which stretches on a vast area of 29,510 square kilometres.
NO SCHOOLING: Masood, a student of class six, looked happy that the earthquake had razed the walls of his school turning it into the only ‘sitting place’ for the troubled villagers. “You go inside. There are cracks in the walls of classrooms,” the child said.
There, however, was no need to go inside the classrooms of Government Middle School Bedi Dal as the outer walls showed huge cracks.
ACCESS CONSTRAINTS: Placed in the camp office of HHRD, a map of World Food Program (WFP) shows that accessing the calamity-hit areas in the country’s largest but mountainous province was itself an uphill task.
The map depicts two “Access Constraints” one marked on 300-kilometer Khuzdar-Awaran rout. “The road is not well recommended but a track which is not used and travelling on the road can be a security risk,” reads a boxed explanation on the map.
While the WFP map clearly refers to a threat from the Baloch insurgents, the government officials tend to downplay the threat.
“Bela and Dundar route is 100 percent secure. There were some law and order incidents in Mashkay, but the situation is now under control. The distribution of relief goods is peaceful,” claimed Commissioner Dr Harifal.
The representatives of NGOs working on ground think otherwise.
“Only the FC is being resisted by the separatists. They don’t hurt the provincial government,” a volunteer confided to Pakistan Today. This version came from many of the official and unofficial quarters but none of them wanted their name to be quoted.
“The Khuzdar-Awaran rout is now also open for the NDMA relief goods,” whispered another NGO official.
The 125-kilometer long Hoshab-Panjgur road happens to be another route to reach Awaran via Shahbaz. The route has a declared “Access Contract”, however. “ The road segment is under construction and inaccessible for any kind of vehicle,” warns the WFP.
The third access to Awaran is through Karachi-Gwadar rout which, however, is 880 kilometers long. This, according to WFP’s map, is an alternative route to access quake-stricken district which can be adopted in case the normal route, Karachi-Bela-Awaran, becomes difficult to access.
The above-quoted Karachi-Bela-Awaran route is the only 136-kilometer “normal route” for the relief goods to reach the deserving hands. But even here constraints do not cease to exit. “The road capacity to bear load traffic is up to 30 metric tons,” warns the WFP map.
HHRD Program Director Azmat Akbar said that of the four routes, which connect Awaran with the rest of the country, only one, Karachi-Bela-Awaran, was recommended for the relatively safe passage of relief goods.
The government might have marked some achievements but politico-infrastructural ground realties in the poverty-stricken Balochistan in general and calamity-hit Awaran in particular warrant that there still is a need for the federal and provincial governments to do more not only to relieve the quake affected people but also to win the hearts of estranged Baloch rebels.

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