Red Cross Talks: People Quakes and Earth Quakes

My husband and I went to a AmCham (American Chamber of Commerce) meeting the other night and heard two different speakers from Red Cross talk on Central Asian issues. Lots of facts and figures were put up on the powerpoint that we witnessed once Drina Karahasanovic was introduced.  From my notes I gathered the following:

186 countries have National Red Cross and Red Crescent

1919 was when the Intl. Federation of Red Cross was formed (wondering if this is a result of the one million Armenians who had been killed in a genocide in 1915 or if a direct result of WWI?)

Drina focused her talk on what happened in southern Kyrgyzstan after early April when the interim government was still settling in after the Talas and Bishkek violence.

June 10 – interethnic tensions

June 12 – Uzbek border opened (90,000 passed through)

June 14 – new Kyrgyz government requested international support

June 17 – 75,000 were registered by Uzbek government and put in 50 different locations

June 25 – referendum

Aug. 10 – Kyrgyzstan lifted state of emergency

What are the needs of 375,000 IDPs and refugees still after the summer problems in Osh?

1)   psycho-social needs for adults and children who witnessed the violence

2)   food and non-food items – shelter, safe water

3)   promoting social inclusion and culture of non-violence and peace

So far, 30,000 IDPS have been assisted

Many Uzbeks living in Kyrgyzstan are wondering how they will make it through the winter without houses and lack of food

Even though Red Cross had their “ear to the ground” and knew the Ferghana Valley has much racial tension, they were surprised at the magnitude of the problem, how it escalated so quickly.  That is a hot spot to keep watching

To know more about what the Red Cross Intl. does in other hot spots, check out www.ifrc.org or www.icrc.org

Next, a representative for the American Red Cross (ARC) was a man of Pakistani origin named Augustine Gill.  He touched a bit on the flood in Pakistan but focused more on the problems in Central Asia related to earthquakes.  Augustine said that for every $2-3 spent on prevention it could save $7-10 in relief.  The obvious result of politicians not agreeing on locations and thus not spending money on dams that were needed, it created many homeless people.  22 million have been affected by the indecision of government and 2,000 people died as a result.  He mentioned something about “Restoring Family Links” which is something about reuniting families after a catastrophe when they are seprated.

The point was well taken that Central Asia has many major cities that are in the earthquake zone.  How much money could be spent NOW to make sure buildings are up to code so that lives and structures are not lost when the eventual earthquake hits.  They predict in the next 10-15 years.  Almaty and Bishkek are two cities high on the list of risk levels.

I know from when I first arrived and  lived Bishkek in 1993, there were standing some non-structurally sound buildings.  Where the first Peace Corps building housed their office was in a vacated hotel that had been damaged by an earthquake which had happened maybe 10-15 years earlier.  In Almaty there was a HUGE concrete walls built to stop mudslides coming down to the city. I can’t remember when but maybe in the 1960s a whole town was demolished close to Almaty due to a tremor and mountain mudslide.  I know I wrote in my blog several years ago about that.

So, there needs to be behavorial change issues that have to happen.  The Ministries of Emergency in each country need to be prepared with escape plans and food and water preparations for those people affected by earthquakes.

Now that I live in the safety of Astana, I’m thinking with all the empty apartment buildings that keep going up and being filled with hard working young people, if an earthquake happens in Almaty…well there would be homes and office buildings ready to take those who move BEFORE the big one happens.  After the earthquake that is bound to hit, then Astana will be a bustling, busy city.

I talked yesterday to an older woman from Taras who still has property in Almaty, but she has moved up to Astana to work at the new university.  She said wryly like a died-in-the-wool Californian might say, “Yeah, they are always talking about the next BIG one…”  She doesn’t believe it will happen and thinks it is just a scare tactic.  Hm…talk to those people in Japan or Turkey or China about earthquakes.  I’m just saying…

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