Gulf support for quake likely to continue into reconstruction

[Pakistan] Saudi-funded feeding centre in Muzaffarabad - the kitchen prepares 30,000 hot meals a day for earthquake survivors. [Date picture taken: 01/22/2006]
Saudi-funded feeding centre in Muzaffarabad - the kitchen prepares 30,000 hot meals a day for earthquake survivors. (Sean Crowley/IRIN)

Sajad Ahmad, 12, found himself an only child after his brother was killed in the earthquake that devastated northern Pakistan last October.

He queued patiently, barefoot, in freezing temperatures along with thousands of others, at a Saudi Arabian-funded feeding centre in the Bela Noor Shah camp in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

The beans and rice he receives three times a day at the centre, ladled from vast metal drums bubbling on open fires, keep him alive.

"This food has saved the lives of my family in such bad conditions," he said.

Ahmed may be able to return to what's left of his village 90 km away in the Neelum Valley in the spring if conditions allow. But for now he and thousands of others are dependant on the centre.

The feeding centre was established by the World Assembly of Muslim Youth based in Saudi-Arabia, an independent international organisation which supports the work of Muslim groups and needy communities all over the world.

Jamat-e-Islami – a Pakistani religious and political organisation also assisted with the centre as it swung into operation just two days after the earthquake struck.

Savoury Foods, a Pakistani company supplying bulk foods to hotel chains, has donated most of the daily supplies.

"There are more than 450 families in Bela Noor Shah camp. We are providing three meals a day for around 10,000 people. We also sent food parcels to those in distant villages and to people in hospitals," Mohammad Sanaullah, supervisor of the centre said.

Experts say such efforts can also be seen as a sign of the Islamic tradition of solidarity from fellow Muslim nations during times of crisis.

Muslim countries worldwide, but particularly wealthier Arab nations, have continually supported Pakistan in its relief effort after the powerful earthquake of 7.6 magnitude.

"The earthquake relief from countries like Saudi Arabia is a powerful, practical demonstration of the whole concept of Islamic unity and brotherhood in the Islamic world,” economic and political analyst in Islamabad, Farhan Bukhari, said.

“It has left a fairly good impression amongst the people of Pakistan that Islamic countries are standing with them in this hour of need," he added.

Within days of the disaster, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait led the way internationally by donating US $100 million apiece.

The UAE was also one of the first to set up an emergency field hospital and lend helicopters to provide an air bridge to provide relief supplies.

Saudi Arabia alone has pledged $573 million for rebuilding and rehabilitation in the quake-affected areas.

"Pakistan was deeply appreciative of the solidarity and support readily extended by the leadership of Saudi Arabia in the wake of the devastating earthquake on 8 October," Tasneem Aslam, a foreign office spokeswoman told reporters earlier this week.

By the end of January, Qatar had dispatched relief goods totalling $20 million, along with medical units, while Bahrain contributed goods worth more than $3 million and Oman donated $5 million, according to the Dubai-based Gulf Research Centre.

Oman and Qatar pledged more specific help in the areas of health and education facilities. High-level delegations from both countries are due to visit northern Pakistan early in February.

Other contributions came from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) with $500 million, Iran $200 million and Turkey $150 million.

More than 80,000 people were killed and another 3.5 million were rendered homeless, just weeks before the start of the harsh Himalayan winter, creating one of the most challenging humanitarian operations ever.

Over 2 million quake survivors are now confined to flimsy tents across an extended area of about 28,000 sq km, being kept alive by national and international aid.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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