Pakistan Earthquake Relief Update

January 27, 2006

Omar Amir

When the HOAP/Real Medicine Team visited the hamlets in the mountain areas of Shawal Moizullah, a great need for heating was identified. Reconstruction of the homes has not yet started in these areas. In most cases, people light a fire inside open shelters made from corrugated iron sheets but then sleep in tents at night where they are exposed to sub-zero temperatures. This explains, in large part, the rising case load of acute respiratory infections that are particularly threatening to neonates and children. In some houses that were fortunate enough to have enough corrugated iron sheets to build a closed shelter, the Real Medicine Team saw that people were lighting fires without proper ventilation which also poses a respiratory hazard.

Real Medicine proposes to provide heaters to 1000 families in the coldest areas of Shawal Moizullah. These heaters will be based on a unique local design used successfully for many years in the snow-bound regions of Hunza in Northern Pakistan. Since there is no open flame and there is an exhaust system for ventilation, there is no danger of fire and the heaters will be safe to use in tents. In addition, these heaters serve multiple roles in that they can be used for cooking food and also have a geyser system which can be used to provide warm water. Once reconstruction is complete, people can use these heaters in their homes for many years.

Currently, organizations like MSF are providing heaters that run on gas or kerosene oil to heat tents. However, these heaters are very expensive to run because of the high cost of kerosene oil and gas. Further, it will be impossible for mountain communities in Shawal Moizullah to keep transporting kerosene oil or gas cylinders from markets far away. In contrast, the heaters proposed by Real Medicine run on firewood which is cheap and locally available. The mountain communities already use firewood for their cooking and other needs which makes these heaters a viable and sustainable option.

During a recent trip to Jabri, the Real Medicine team used sample heaters based on the Hunza design and found them to be a safe and effective option for heating tents. Though the negotiations for the prices have not been finalized with the manufacturers, the estimated cost for a single heater is Rs 1400 or $23. Once funds are available, Real Medicine will place an order for 1000 heaters, 500 of which can be made available within 2 weeks. HOAP volunteers will train families in the proper use of the heaters. It is expected that once their efficacy is demonstrated, these heaters will be locally produced by the people of Shawal Moizullah in the long run.

Country Page: Pakistan Initiative Page: Healthcare Project, Union Council Talhatta