(PLAN is a UK charity on the ground in Pakistan. Updates on the situation are being posted on their website. -kg)
Mia and myself are now in Mansehra and have just met with Plan programme staff.
Because Plan is so well-known many community members and local people – many who have walked hours and even days to get here – have come in seeking advice and help, while others have turned up with support, food and materials asking us to distribute it.
Residents of isolated villages are also upset that the high profile cases like Balakot are getting the majority of the attention, assistance and materials, while they are sidelined.
The locals have developed many initiatives to deliver goods to Mansehra District, including providing tents, blankets and food. For example, 28 doctors, including orthopaedic surgeons who have given up their jobs in Karachi and brought their own personal supplies, have come up here to help; doctors from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Authority have just turned up with a request for Plan to distribute foods, medicines and tents. They have been bringing many of these supplies to the Plan office for advice on getting their goods to the right people and those who need it the most.
Plan staff are out and about in villages and at times are distributing food and water, digging people out of the rubble, helping dig graves and bury the dead. One staff member removed 25 bodies from the rubble, dug their graves, prayed for them and buried them.
Our health advisor, Dr Irfan Ahmed, has just seen off a helicopter filled with medial supplies delivered by Plan. The helicopter is off to supply 3 villages in the Siran valley – an area 68km North of Mansehra. There are currently no road communications with the villages, although Plan staff have been in touch by phone. No relief or government organisations have been there and Plan will be the first relief organisation to get there and begin assisting.
The first thing we will do is make an initial assessment and then establish medical camps in each of the villages. The total population is approx 15,000.
We are also preparing a 2nd helicopter to provide much needed tents and blankets.
Dr Irfan was supposed to go with the helicopters but gave up his place to a man who needed to go and pick up the body of his mother. The flight was staffed with 5 doctors and 2 assistants so he felt he could let the man go.
The personnel were local volunteers and will establish the medical camps.
Most staff are concerned at the lack of children they see. There are concerns that there could be a very high child mortality rate.
The Education Minister has told us that as many as 70% of the high schools in the Mansehra District have been destroyed.
Staff personally witnessed a destroyed high school in Garhi Habibullah – in Hazara, 165km North East of the federal capital, where around 550 children died. Plan staff helped pull 150 corpses from the rubble. There is also concern at the lack of people coming to ask where the children are – which might indicate parental casualties too.
Plan staff are tired – yet passionate and morale is high.
Blog from Plan staff on the situation in Pakistan