ISLAMABAD: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) becomes the first international aid agency to reach remote mountain villages in the Neelum Valley area with winter survival kits.
KSRelief officers reached Surgan, Bakwali and Seri areas in the Neelum district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Saturday.
“Due to heavy snow and glacier landslides, Surgan area in the stretches of high mountains is completely cut off from the main town of Sharda until now,” KSRelief told Arab News in a statement on Monday.
Sharda is located 137 kilometers northeast of Muzaffarabad, the capital of AJK. Bakwali and Seri lie some eight and 10 kilometers off the main Neelum Valley road in AJK territory.
KSRelief distributed 7,500 winter kits, with medicines and warm gear – 15,000 blankets, shawls for men and women, socks, gloves and caps.
“The agency distributed 2,000 winter kits in Neelum Valley, including (among the) affected people of Bakwali, Seri and Surgan areas of tehsil Sharda. Another 1,500 winter gears were distributed in Muzaffarabad district and 1,000 kits in Hattian Bala,” the statement said. Another 3,000 packages went to Haveli, Mirpur and Bagh districts with 1,000 kits.
Muhammad Farooq, a resident of Surgan, told Arab News over the phone on Monday that he was grateful to the Saudi agency for reaching the village despite such difficult snow-laden terrain.
“Due to heavy snowfall, rains and sliding land, 55 people died in our village and many houses were destroyed. Our children were getting ill with every passing day,” Farooq said, adding that the winter kits are life-saving for the community.
Another resident, Afzaal Rafiq, said it was very hard to access the village as all passages remain covered by snow.
“This organization is the first one to reach us and these blankets and other items are very precious for us,” he told Arab News.
Muhammad Siddiqui from Bakwali said there is an acute shortage of food and medicine in the village as it remains completely cut off from Sharda.
“This clothing provided to us by the Saudi agency is much needed and will provide relief to the affected families. We appeal all other organizations to follow in the footsteps of KSRelief and help us,” Siddiqui told Arab News.
According to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), at least 105 people were killed and 96 injured in the wake of recent weather-related incidents in the country. The majority of casualties were reported from Azad Kashmir where heavy rains and snowfall triggered avalanches, especially in the Neelum Valley area.
Earlier this month, KSRelief launched a $1.5 million winter relief project to distribute 30,000 winter bags containing 180 tons of goods in 21 districts across Pakistan. The initiative is expected to benefit 150,000 people.
With one of the largest humanitarian aid budgets in the world, KSRelief has been working in 46 countries. Pakistan is the fifth-largest recipient of its assistance and has received more than $117.6 million in aid since 2005.