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Pakistan Quake: Two Years Later, Water and Education Remain Precious Resources

One girl's story illustrates the challenges many children and their families continue to face in northwestern Pakistan, two years after a destructive earthquake.

October 8, 2007

Asma's day starts long before dawn. After finishing her household chores and fetching clean drinking water from the nearest water source — an hour's hike from her village — the 10-year-old walks two miles to school down a steep mountain slope. © 2007 Dana Palade / World Vision
It is not yet 8 a.m., and 10-year-old Asma Bibi is just returning from an hour's hike to the nearest watering hole, carrying a ten-liter water container.

This willowy girl daily navigates a narrow, precipitous mountain path in Pakistan's high Siran Valley; thorny bushes tear at her worn shalwar kameez (a traditional Pakistani outfit), as she balances the heavy water container on her head. "When I return home from fetching water, I am already so tired," she says.

Once Asma is back home, though, she and her younger brother, Reyast, will walk two more hours down another steep mountain slope to the nearest primary school, supported by World Vision, in Dhabar Khatta.

"Water and education — this is what is most needed in Jhangi," says Asma's father, Noor Mohammed.

'How Will I Support Them?'

Asma, who loves to study English and Urdu, also enjoys her friendships with the other girls at school.

But not all of the fourth-grader's school memories are cheerful. Asma was in class on Oct. 8, 2005, when a massive earthquake decimated her school and shattered lives in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province where her village is located.

"I was so afraid!" Asma recalls. "My father came to take me home after three days, as soon as he returned from work."

Before the quake, Noor Mohammed worked as an unskilled laborer in the port of Karachi, some 1,800 kilometers (1,118 miles) south of Jhangi. He remembers what he witnessed two years ago: "I came home to find my house collapsed, and my wife and 8-year-old boy trapped under heavy rubble, where they died.

"I was grateful that my other six children were alive, and kept [thinking], 'How will I support them? What about their futures?'"

After their mother's death, Asma and her older sister, Saima, 13, began managing the family household — cooking, cleaning, and caring for their father and siblings. The family relies on the milk of four goats, as well as the maize and vegetable harvests from their small plot of land.

Rebuilding Devastated Communities

Recovery efforts in Pakistan following the deadly quake have focused on education, livelihoods, and disaster preparedness. Read more about World Vision's projects there during the past two years.

A Heavy Toll

Asma and her friends climb the steep path from their village to fetch water from a mountain spring.
Asma and her friends climb the steep path from their village to fetch water from a mountain spring. © 2007 Dana Palade/World Vision

The October 2005 earthquake took an almost unbearable toll not only on Asma's family, but on the community at large. Each of the 45 houses in the village collapsed, reduced to piles of debris in just a few seconds. Seventeen villagers, including six children, lost their lives.

The earthquake also destroyed the village's water system; it took three days before another source of water was discovered — an hour's walk up the mountain to the watering hole Asma uses each day.

"We cannot afford to replace the [water] system, and our repairs did not last long," Noor Mohammad explains.

World Vision was the only aid group that reached Jhangi, a three-hour hike up a rugged, steep slope. The isolated community sits atop a mountain, some 7,000 feet above the Siran Valley.

World Vision's Assistance

Noor Mohammad was grateful to participate in World Vision's food-for-work project, helping to build a new walking path to Jhangi. For his labor, he received flour, grain, and oil that improved his family's meager food supply. Later, World Vision distributed agricultural tools in the village, and the father of six was able to grow a healthy vegetable crop to feed his family.

It took some time for Asma's family to build a new home; but now, a two-room house replaces the old family dwelling that was destroyed by the earthquake. Mohammed Noor and his six children share one room, using the second room as shelter for their livestock.

"We will soon receive a new animal shelter from World Vision," he announces with pride. "We'll be able to clean the second room and use it for ourselves."

It is not easy for Noor Mohammad, and for other parents in Jhangi, to see their children's lives consumed with the chore of retrieving water. Even in summer, fetching the water is a difficult and dangerous task.

"We are afraid of dangerous wildlife, like snakes, but still we have to go fetch the water," says Asma.

A Thirst for Education

Jhangi villagers' thirst for education is almost as acute as their thirst for water — only one man in the community is literate. "We all know that without education, our children will have no future," says Asma's father, who encourages her not to give up on her studies.

Asma believes that her determination to go to school will pay off one day. "I could become a teacher and come back to Jhangi to help boys and girls go on with their studies," the fourth-grader concludes.

Learn More

>> Read about World Vision's quake relief efforts in Pakistan during the past two years.

Two Ways You Can Help

>> Pray for children, like Asma Bibi, and their families, who continue to struggle to rebuild their lives two years after the 2005 quake.
>> Donate now to World Vision's Disaster Response Fund. Your contribution will help us to quickly deliver aid in the midst of disasters like the quake that caused untold suffering among thousands of children and families in Pakistan.

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