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Wednesday, December 21

American quake aid in Pakistan's Northwest province "absolutely stunning"

That quote from Brent Stevens, Wall Street Journal reporter, on Tuesday's John Batchelor show. Brent was in the region last week. He reported that about a thousand US troops are there, and rendering so much help (including huge road-clearing projects and the only functioning hospitals) that when a Muslim cleric gave an anti-American speech in a mosque he was booed by the Pakistani worshippers.

The bad news is that the winter is closing in fast (2-3 weeks), there are 3 million homeless from the quake, and many of the tents they've been provided have not been winterized. The Pak military is doing a good job of coordinating relief efforts, according to Brent, but the quake areas "look like Hiroshima after the Bomb was dropped" so even with help from the US military and other outside agencies, recovery is very slow going.

Brent did not explain why there is a problem with getting winterized tents to the region, but I wonder whether the 20,000 tents provided by the United Nations are winterized. I note from an Ireland Online article that the UN also provided "60,875 plastic sheets and more than 320,000 blankets."

Not to strike a sour note, but I question the priorities. The first need is winterized tents, and that would have been obvious from the day of the quake.

"UN humanitarian relief co-ordinator Jan Vandemoortele appealed for an additional €37.3m to provide survivors with thick blankets and shelter materials. He said another 2.4 million blankets, 170,000 plastic sheets and 200,000 tarpaulins were needed."

Again, I would think that the top priority is winterized tents. Brent reported that there have been many fires in the tent cities because people are trying to waterproof the tents by pouring kerosene on them. This has caused many accidents from cooking fires, so the hospitals are reporting burn and smoke-inhalation victims.

In related news, Kofi Annan has appointed President Bush's father as special UN envoy for rehabilitation and reconstruction in quake-hit areas of northwestern Pakistan and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. Perhaps George W. Bush can get things moving with regard to winterized tents.

More prayers are needed. Hopefully, the winter will be mild in that part of the world this year.

2:45 PM Update
I am republishing this essay under a new time so it will stay at the top of the blog today. Also, I received a comment from Dave that I should share:

Dear Pundita:
According to reports that I've heard there's a U. S. MASH unit set up not far from the quake's epicenter complete with ICU. At this point only about 30% of those who present themselves for treatment are earthquake victims (although nobody's being turned away. That suggests that the U. S. military has become the primary health care provider for a good-sized chunk of Pakistan.
Dave Schuler
The Glittering Eye

Dear Dave:
Thank you for the news; I didn't realize they were providing so much health care. This also helps explain why the cleric was booed. We've heard so much about the US acting unilaterally; this, as contrasted with multilateralism. But actually the US has been tracking toward bilateralism (or at least 'falling into' that approach). This strikes me as a good thing because it allows for highly reflexive responses to the needs of other governments. This is the second time recently that the US military has responded with great efficiency to a humanitarian crisis. (Well, I think one could add Katrina to the tsunami and the quake, if the military had been brought earlier into relief planning for the hurricane.) A tragedy their hands are tied with regard to helping in Darfur.

4:30 PM
"Pundita,
I think that robust bilateral ties particularly with strategic countries like Pakistan are a very positive approach for the United States and an approach which capitalizes on our strengths rather than emphasizing our weaknesses.

I'm quite skeptical of multi-lateral agreements and institutions. Too often they involve bureaucrats (the vulture elite?) which frequently do not share our values or have our best interests at heart. Or, possibly,any interests other than their own.
Dave Schuler"
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