I just got back to Karachi after spending two weeks filming in Balakot.
Balakot is a small town in the North West Frontier Province of
Pakistan, about 60 miles north of Islamabad. Located near the quake’s
epicenter, it is said to be among the worst devastated.
We visited a few small villages up in the mountains around Balakot,
and everywhere we went it was the same story. The people in these
areas depend on subsistence farming and their livestock for survival.
A large number of the livestock has been killed, and the remaining is
without any sort of shelter.
Many people too are still without tents. Some have provided makeshift
shelters for their animals under cloth or plastic sheets. They
urgently require proper shelter both for themselves and their
livestock. Without shelter their livestock will not survive the harsh
winter and many will lose their only source of income. The animals
also require veterinary care to prevent malnutrition and disease
Although tent villages have been established in the towns, the
majority are not willing to leave their land and livestock behind to
move to these camps.
At this time of the year, the yearly migration of people and their
animals is also taking place from the mountains to the plains. On the
main road from Kaghan/Naran to Mansera, we saw many families on the
move; some due to the earthquake. An average herd would consist of a
few donkeys, cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep and a dog or two. Baby
goats and lambs born on the move are often carried on donkey’s backs,
or carried by the people in their arms. Pregnant animals get no rest,
neither are they able to receive any veterinary care along the way. It
is survival of the fittest for all.
At night also they are on the move in the pitch dark. Sometimes they
stop by the side of the highway for a little rest. If they are near a
town, they burn the discarded relief clothes by the roadside for
warmth. Shepherds often collect the sweaters and shirts and put them
on their goats. A lot of the goats we saw were constantly coughing.
According to the shepherds, they tend to die soon after. These people
too are facing a crisis as the price of their animals has fallen
drastically, and they do not know how they will survive.
The international animal welfare community needs to be urgently
mobilized to provide assistance to the animals in the affected areas.
Apart from WSPA (wspa.org.uk) and the Brooke Hospital for Animals
(www.thebrooke.org), there are no other animal welfare organizations
that I am aware of who are providing disaster relief to the animals.
Food is available for both people and animals in most places.
Providing shelter for all ought to be a priority at this point.
We need to take action now before the severe winter weather sets in by
the end of November. Already, it has started snowing in some areas.
What is needed is an urgent assessment of the affected areas, and
community shelters for the livestock in villages up in the mountains.
More mobile veterinary teams need to be sent out to the remote
villages, and most importantly, the local Pakistani veterinary
community needs to be encouraged to play their role in the disaster
We hope you can help in sending out alerts to the international
community to take action before it’s too late.
For more information, please take a look at these websites:
Videos: Geo Television, Pakistan