Forward Momentum – The Pakistan Earthquake, Two Years Later

Two years have passed since the devastating 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck northern Pakistan. Although the headlines may have faded, Direct Relief remains dedicated to supporting the rehabilitation of those still affected by the quake.

With two recent cash grants totaling $95,000, Direct Relief’s financial support to partners in Pakistan has surpassed $1.2 million in total cash funding to groups dedicated to providing care to earthquake-affected communities, and $8.7 million in total assistance, including emergency medical material aid and cash investments.

Direct Relief has provided $50,000 to helped the Pakistan Institute of Prosthetic and Orthotic Sciences (PIPOS) expand their services to include rehabilitation for people who have suffered spinal cord injuries and were paralyzed from the earthquake.

Until this point, people paralyzed as a result of the earthquake were treated in a variety of places throughout the affected area, some living in tent hospitals, others in the capital hundreds of miles from their family. Many of those who returned to their villages did so without proper instruction on how to maintain good hygiene and consequently suffered from repeat infections and bed sores.

In an effort to combat these complications, PIPOS has started to use their strategically located Balakot center as a hub of paraplegic rehabilitation. To date, over 100 patients have registered and started therapy, and the center has brought on two additional doctors with specialties in rehabilitative medicine.

Direct Relief also recently disbursed the second installment of a $90,000 grant to the National Institute of the Handicapped, which is initiating the construction of an additional wing to their Islamabad care center. The center provides rehabilitative care to people struggling with physical handicaps or recovering from major traumatic injuries.

The grant covers the majority of the project’s total costs, projected at $175,000. The Marafie Foundation, a Pakistani aid group, manages the project and will provide additional financial backing if necessary. Both Direct Relief and the Marafie Foundation share a common concern for the health and welfare of earthquake-affected populations in Pakistan and are engaged in activities designed to save lives, relieve suffering, and lay foundations for recovery.

The new wing will also include additional examination rooms, stores, and separate male and female wards where family members can come and stay with patients receiving treatment.

“In Pakistan it is the norm to have your family bedside while you are recovering in the hospital,” said Brett Williams, Direct Relief’s emergency response coordinator, who visited the Institute in June 2006. “Most of those affected by the quake do not have family in the Islamabad area or money for a hotel room, so they try and sleep on the floor next to the patient or in some cases on the verandas and walkways.”

The Institute played a key role in the aftermath of the earthquake, serving as a post-operation recovery center for trauma patients while also providing care to its chronic disability patients. The dramatic increase in patient load strained the hospital’s staff and facility to the limit. The Institute avoided functional collapse with support from non-governmental organizations, including Direct Relief and UNICEF.

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