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Complete rehabilitation eludes Kashmir earthquake victims

Srinagar, October 07, 2007:

Srinagar, Oct 07: The earthquake-affected people of Indian administered Kashmir are still suffering from flashbacks, nightmares, depression, hypertension and withdrawal from social interaction amidst the claims of rehabilitation by government.

Rubina Syed, a counsellor with Johannesburg based NGO, Actionaaid in Kashmir’s northern district of Kupwara says that these symptoms are still common among people two years after the deadly quake struck the region.

The quake killed at least 72,000 people in Pakistan administered Kashmir and more than 1200 in Indian administered Kashmir and left tens of thousands more homeless.

In a latest statement Actionaid said the earthquake-hit districts of Indian administered Kashmir are on the path to recovery but with hard-to-reach hospitals and many schools still unusable, people in remote areas are still reeling from the 2005 disaster.

The NGO said that in sub districts like Uri and Tangdhar near the ceasefire line, which divides the state between India and Pakistan, bad roads and security concerns are preventing 45 villages from receiving government healthcare.

“Children, women, the elderly and infirm are having particular difficulty getting to local hospitals,” said Shabana Mahajan, ActionAid's mental health officer, in northern Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

“We are finding that post-traumatic stress, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorders are more common in survivors who lost their family members or are living in acute poverty,” says Mahajan.

“While over 65 per cent of permanent construction is complete, poorer people are still struggling to improve their semi permanent shelters. Many of these families have had to use the compensation money received from government to cover basics such as food and healthcare.

“It is not only healthcare. Children in many areas of Uri and Karnah are left studying outside,” she adds.

Over 100 schools were damaged in the October 8, 2005 earthquake which registered 7.6 on the Richter scale.

The NGO said that the according to their assessments 40 per cent of village schools are still without buildings.

“Autumn cold has already set in and children are finding it difficult to study out in the open – there is a real urgency to speed up reconstruction of schools,” says Gulzar Ahmed, Actionaid’s coordinator in Uri.

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