Gone in 60 seconds? – The Irish News



Well, according to the Prime Minister of Pakistani-controlled or ‘Azad’ Kashmir, it was a bit less: ‘what we have achieved over the last 40 to 50 years has gone in 40 to 50 seconds’.

School building badly-damaged by the earthquake (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

But according to the relatives of those who died in the October 8 earthquake, the now 3 million homeless, it was just thirteen seconds.

Thirteen seconds to kill over 80,000 people, including over 20,000 children. Thirteen seconds to make three million homeless, to destroy almost every school and medical facility in the region, to destroy the infrastructure and livelihoods

Much faster than anything in the ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ Hollywood no-brainer from a few years’ ago.

And that is no offence to UNHCR goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie, who acted in the 2000 hit. Her recent visit to the earthquake-stricken region lasted 3 days – and generated much-needed interest from the western medma, who have lived up to every commerce-oriented, low-attention-span, news-as-entertainment cliché applied to them by a general public who clearly know better.

They do in Ireland at least, donating over €1million to the GOAL Pakistan earthquake appeal, and similar sums to other large agencies.

Now there is just a few days, maybe two weeks left, to get enough food, shelter, sanitation and clean water to the many people who still need assistance.

The weather in Kashmir took a turn for the worse over the weekend, with snow on the hills and panic on the streets. Hundreds of cases of pneumonia reported, and the first climate-related deaths were reported.

Much like at home and across Europe – bad weather disrupted lives. But unlike Europe, the shattered people and infrastructure in northern Pakistan cannot be expected to cope with the weather expected over the next few months. 3 million homeless people will try to survive in tents and temporary shelters, as 4-8 feet of snow falls and night temperatures drop to minus 15 degrees or more on higher ground.

So the media scrum around Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt needs to be translated into hard cash soon, and resources for the vulnerable soon after.

GOAL are upgrading their existing shelter programme by providing corrugated iron sheeting to 7,500 families in regions of high altitude.

Shelter engineer Andy Cox has worked in Pakistan for five years – and is working with GOAL to help local carpenters design small, affordable and functional shelters to protect against the winter.

He said

‘with winter coming we need to to help people stay warm enough to survive. We also want to allow them remain on their land. Other wise we may see a mass exodus downhill to spontaneous camps, which will be a haven for disease and social tension.’

The quick-to-build shelters will placed as examples throughout GOALs region of operation, before GOAL distributes the materials needed to build the shelters

GOAL will provide enough tin sheeting and materials to allow families construct their own shelter

Cox added

‘these shelters can be built and insulted quickly and cheaply. Given the lack of time and resources available to the relief effort, they are a key means by which we can save lives this winter’.

Although committed contributions to the UN Flash Appeal have increased and reached US$151 million out of the US$550 million requested, that is still far too low.

On November 19, donor nations and international organisations promised over US$5.4 billion for relief and reconstruction. However, there is little point thinking about reconstruction when the money and resources necessary for saving lives now is not available now.

We had a few inches of snow in Ireland over the weekend. Compare the inconveniences involved with a situation where three million homeless, 100,000 injured, the young and the elderly, the malnourished, all have to survive in 4-6 feet of snow and night temperatures of -10 to -15 degrees celsius.

And survive in winterised tents or tin sheeting shelters if they are lucky.

Mohammed Iqbal has been in a tent with his family and his brothers’ family since the earthquake. He told GOAL.

‘Tin sheeting is what I need the most. I have timber to build a frame for a shelter.’

But as things stand, many will not get the shelter they need before winter. Not if the world does not wake up to this. And not even in sixty seconds. Now. It’s a no-brainer really.

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