Thursday, February 02, 2006

IRC Briefing on Earthquake Work -- Update 2

IRC Briefing 02/02/06

Sorry about this being a little choppy. I am trying to write as fast as I can and as properly as I can.

Started with thanks from a partner from MoFo. Mentions that he worked for a week in Tsunami camps--and understanding that need in Pak is bigger.

Then came Jennifer Brokaw; member of Board of Overseers. ER physician. Worked in pakistan in 1989, Afghani refugee camps. Introduced Shama and Nadeem Anwar who she introduced as mentors of hers from when she was a very young doctor working in the camps. And said that her experiences then and her being the citizen of an earthquake prone city made the earthquake hit home. Natural disasters are not usually IRC's purview, but they've been there for over 20 years and she said she knew they would jump in..

Ms. Brokay introduced Mark Bartonlini, formerly regional director for ME (incl. Pak).

Food was donated by Rotee, a San Francisco restaurant (http://www.roteesf.com). Wine, space.

IRC intro: One of the largest and oldest organizations. Started in 1933, on the suggestion of Einstein--initially to work with population fleeing the Nazi regime. Only do work with War-affected populations. When they do work, they respond to natural disasters--Tsunami (Aceh), Katrina, first Pak.

938 or so staff, only 3 expats. About helping people who help themselves. there were a lot of staff personally affected.

He introduced a video about IRC work in Pakistan and then Gillian Dunn and Rick Brennan.

Video: They were one of the first organizations on the ground with health professionals. Including women doctors--for a time, the only ones. One thing I really liked is their mention of a Cash for Work program harnessing local folks to get rebuilding and relief work done.

Ms. Dunn: Started with basics about the quake. Then IRC's profile in Pakistan. They've been there for 25 years. Their work started with Afghan refugees. They have quite a focus on Promoting and Protecting Human Rights, and therefore they were very conscious of privacy issues (purdah, etc.). Destruction of homes meant that the private zone that women have in that society went away. The lack of that has health implications, etc. And also equal access issues.

Covered the following:

Shelter: A lot of villages were built on the sides of roads and were hit by avalanches, etc. Real reconstruction can't begin till the spring.

Health Care: They have doctors, a lot of them women; almost all of them, it seems, locals.

Child Protection & Development: Creating child-friendly zones, places that could help them start on the path to "normalizaton".

Of the 2.8 Million homeless, 135K are in organized camps. Others are in spontaneous camps, with relatives, and so on.

Options and Challenges include the quality, and not just th quantity of aid. A lot of people are being urged to go back to their villages. The IRC is taking that up with the government.

Looking towards recovery. Recovery from a disaster is a sprint followed by a marathon. But because of the situation, both of those components have to go on in parallel. The IRC is urging that though there is a lot of relief work still happening, it should not be at the cost of recovery and rebuilding.

She related some details about things that have happened. For example, saying that the total loss of employment is 35%, affecting 1.6 million (or so; I hope I remember right) people. The area is already very poor and a lot of these people don't expect any services from the government--and get none. A lot of this is in the Tribal Areas, where the writ of the Pakistani government does not reach. The IRC is trying to form local community-based organizations that will plan and implement the programs--deciding what needs to be done and so on. They are hoping train people in a new construction technique.

Primary construction material is stabilized compressed earthblocks, with metal roofs. The original buildings were earth with heavy timber roofs with earth on top of it. That's what killed people; the roofs falling in. Their program is hoping to train people in the new, safer building technique. This will continue on for many years. One room structures is not the end of it. Traditionally, houses are large, given the social structures there.

There is a lot of work to be done; but these are very strong people.
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