Mountain guides help WFP with Pakistan quake recovery

Published on 24 February 2006

WFP has announced the formation of a team of 23 experienced international and Pakistani mountain guides to assess damage and destruction in mountainous areas of Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir hit by last October’s earthquake.

WFP has announced the formation of a team of 23 experienced international and Pakistani mountain guides to assess damage and destruction in mountainous areas of Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir hit by last October’s earthquake.

We are checking the road conditions, assessing the level of destruction in the villages, checking if the water supply has been cut off, seeing if the sanitation and health conditions have changed

Chris McGeough, RRR team project manager

The guides, known as the Remote, Reconnaissance and Response team (RRR) and attached to the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), will help WFP prepare for the recovery phase of its operation to help hundreds of thousands of quake survivors.

The team is made of 8 mountain guides from Canada some of whom have experience of altitudes of 8,000 metres, and 15 Pakistani mountain guides from Hunza, the Pakistani hub for Himalayan hiking.

Accessing remote villages

Equipped with a fleet of off-road vehicles, they will be able to reach the most remote villages, some of them accessible only by foot. One assessment already carried out involved walking for 16 days.

“We are checking the road conditions, assessing the level of destruction in the villages, checking if the water supply has been cut off, seeing if the sanitation and health conditions have changed.

"At the same time, we thoroughly investigate the feasibility of people returning to their homes,” said Chris McGeough, the RRR team project manager.

Back to work

WFP is planning a two-year programme to assist the restoration of the livelihoods of the survivors.

The operation will target food insecure families through food-for-work and asset creation projects, focusing on forestry, agriculture and road repair.

Some 670,000 people will receive food rations while they rebuild their homes and community infrastructure.

The team will be essential in locating the sites for food-for-work projects.

Assessing the damage

It will look for damaged roads, irrigation systems and houses of vulnerable families that can be rehabilitated through such projects.

The team will also look for sites to construct greenhouses and coordinate its efforts with the Government and NGOs to initiate and allocate projects, to help people regain self sufficiency faster when they return home.

The food-for-work projects will be undertaken in remote villages where food production, access to markets, employment and credit facilities will continue to be hampered until basic infrastructure and trade are restored.

"Quake jumpers"

The formation of the team follows the successful deployment by WFP at the start of winter of a team of so-called “quake jumpers” – mountaineers taken by helicopter to remote and snowbound villages to make early assessments of needs and damage.

The RRR team will operate mainly in affected parts of North West Frontier Province, including the Allai, Kohistan and Mansehra districts.

The team will also investigate ways to rehabilitate the health infrastructure with the assistance of a medical services expert, who will also provide medical assistance to the team if needed.

Urgent appeal

It will also do assessment work for other UN agencies involved in the process of helping the return of people who that left their villages for lower altitudes during the winter.

RRR will be working with WFP for six weeks – until 1 April – at a cost of US$2 million, donated by Norway.

Last week, WFP issued an urgent appeal for more funding to maintain its ‘lifeline’ helicopter operation after February to assist earthquake victims.

So far, WFP has received US$56.4 million, but an additional US$24 million is required to continue the relief effort with an increasingly reduced fleet.