Intended for healthcare professionals


In Pakistan's earthquake zone global relief has so far failed its test

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 10 November 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1151
  1. Richard Villar (, consultant orthopaedic surgeon
  1. Wellington Hospital, London

    At over 1.83 metres tall and a former soldier, I do not cry easily, yet I am certainly crying now. The reason? Frustration following Pakistan's earthquake, perhaps the biggest disaster to strike this planet in my lifetime and something that the world's largest aid effort seems powerless to relieve.

    I am in the Neelam valley, east of Muzaffarabad, helping to establish two small field hospitals. At the beginning the situation was hopeless, with large numbers of disaster tourists and their cameras, each seeking the one image that could establish their careers. Then there were the tedious meetings with aid agencies from around the world. The answer was clear. The people needed action, not discussion. Today I am in the little village of Panjgiran, in the company of Ahmad, a respected local in the throes of post-traumatic stress after losing his entire family in the earthquake. It was at 8 52 am on 8 October when, unexpectedly, the ground shot vertically upwards. Within three seconds it was all over with three million homeless and to …

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