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Monday, August 10, 2009

Islamic Relief USA Envoy Presses On

Upon completing his visit to the northwest Pakistan conflict zone where Islamic Relief is helping thousands of conflict-affected people, US staff member Anwar Khan continued his trip. Pakistan-administered Kashmir was next on his list, where Islamic Relief has had a lasting impact on the people's lives. Khan wrote a letter from the field sharing his experience.

August 8

We traveled to Bagh in Pakistan controlled Kashmir today. This was one of the most devastated areas after the 2005 earthquake that killed 80,000 people. I first visited this area in 1998 for a water project and have returned many times since the earthquake. In my 2005 visit, which was five weeks after the earthquake, we could still smell the corpses under the rubble. Parents were sitting on the side of the road holding photos of their missing children asking any passers by if they have seen their missing children. Homes, schools, bridges, communities were decimated by the earthquake.

Four years on, many of the homes are reconstructed, some schools and hospitals have been rebuilt, but there is still much work to be done. We visited Jandi Bhatti Kot village in the mountains. There is no road, but a river and a rocky trail to the village. We arrived for the inauguration of the water system. Kashmir is lush green, but may of the women in the mountains spend half of their lives fetching water.

I met a young girl and smiled when I realized by building this water system in her village we have saved her 30 years of fetching water. Now she can spend more time on going to school and studying.

There is still much work to be done in the area. Often, there are no doctors in these rural areas. Pregnant women may travel for hours on mountains to get to the nearest health facility. In Jandi Bhatti Kot they thanked Islamic Relief for food, tents, blankets, shelter and water systems after the earthquake, but asked for a school so there daughters could go to school. The nearest school is too difficult for them to go to in the rain and snow. Above all they want to be in a situation where they will not need assistance from anyone.


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