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This is an account of a trip with Emily So of Cambridge University in 2006 to the areas affected by the Pakistan earthquake of 8 October 2005 and to the breathtaking Kaghan Valley. Emily’s aim was to conduct a survey of survivors of the earthquake about their injuries as part of her PhD. My aim was to shed light on the factors affecting long-term recovery after major disasters.
We interviewed people in Islamabad in World Health Organisation (WHO), the Pakistan Institute of Medical Services (PIMS) and Earthquake Reconstruction & Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) responsible for coordinating relief and reconstruction and visited the areas affected by the earthquake in Muzaffarabad and Balakot. We also drove up the beautiful Kaghan Valley as far as we were able.
The Kaghan Valley is the old Silk Road from China to India and Arabia that crossed the high Himalaya. It goes from Balakot in the south to Chitral and Gilgit in the north. The epicentre of the earthquake was just north of Balakot. This is the mythic North West Frontier. It is home, in imagination, of armed Pakistani tribesmen and the site of the Great Game. Amir Khan was as excited as I was at the prospect and Emily, having satisfied herself that the survey was proceeding well, was keen to go too.
The valley is very beautiful, narrow, steep and wooded with a patchwork of pasture and tiny ploughed terraces awaiting replanting. There is a lot of damage and stone fall has scarred the trees. The road is still blocked in places and the army is working on glacial slides.
Understanding some of the issues faced by survivors of the earthquake was a powerful experience for us both and we were treated with the warmest hospitality and generosity by everyone we met in Pakistan
Main Photo: Professor Amir Khan and Steve on traditional Chapoy rope bed
Journal Cover: Man at roadside shop, Jared, Kaghan Valley