Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Aid to Earthquake Victims

The earthquake in Pakistan and Kashmir may be more devastating in mountain areas than the mainstream media is reporting, according to Greg Mortenson of the Central Asia Institute. Initial reports suggest Baltistan and other far northern areas may have escaped the worst damage, but many remote villages have not yet been visited by relief workers, and Mortenson warned that landslides and avalanches could continue to cause destruction for months ahead. Hundreds of thousansds of people are homeless, just as winter nears. So far, however, Mortenson has not discovered any damage to the schools built by his Central Asia Institute. Read his report here.

Mortenson and others hope the U.S. government will respond with a major donation of aid, given that Pakistan is a key ally in the "war on terror." So far, the U.S. has pledged $50 million. (By comparison, the government has pledged a total of more than $900 million to tsunami relief and reconstruction.) Many fear that private individuals may have donor fatigue following the Asian tsunami and Katrina hurricane and will not respond to the earthquake they way they did to those disasters. "No group of Americans has enjoyed Pakistan as much as [climbers]," wrote Jim Ansara, VP of the American Alpine Club, in an email last night, urging climbers to respond to the earthquake. The Pakistani Army and Red Crescent organization are taking the lead in immediate relief efforts. To offer longterm support, consider a gift to the Central Asia Institute.

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