KSRelief first to reach Neelum Valley with winter aid

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KSRelief officers reach the Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir on Jan. 25, 2020. (Picture courtesy: KSRelief)
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KSRelief officers reach the Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir, on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. (Picture courtesy: KSRelief)
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Updated 27 January 2020

KSRelief first to reach Neelum Valley with winter aid

  • Mountain villages remain cut off from road access due to heavy snow and landslides
  • KSRelief’s $1.5 million winter aid project brings help to cold weather-affected communities in 21 districts across Pakistan

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 distributes winter survival kits in remote mountain villages of the Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir, on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. (Picture courtesy: KSRelief)

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.

KSRelief vehicles reach Surgan in the Neelum district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. (Picture courtesy: KSRelief)

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.

UN chief visits Kartarpur Corridor, terms it 'symbol of peace'

Updated 18 February 2020

UN chief visits Kartarpur Corridor, terms it 'symbol of peace'

  • Guterres says the visit pays tribute to the contribution of Sikh community all over the world
  • He arrived in Pakistan to attend a UN summit on Afghan refugees

ISLAMABAD: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday visited Pakistan’s flagship interfaith initiative, the Kartarpur Corridor, and paid homage to Guru Nanak who founded Sikhism five centuries ago.
“This is the best symbol that we can give for a world in peace and for a world (where) there is mutual respect and acceptance of what is different,” the UN Chief said while addressing a pool of journalists and officials.
Opened last year, the four-kilometer Kartarpur Corridor connects the Sikh shrine of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib in India’s Punjab region to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan. It allows Sikhs to visit the shrine in Pakistan without a visa. Some 5,000 Indian Sikhs have been allowed access daily.
“Recognizing the diversity is a blessing, is a richness not a threat which we see in so many parts of the world fighting in the name of religion. It is necessary to say that religions unite us for peace and the best symbol is this shrine,” Guterres said, adding that his visit was “to pay tribute to the contribution of the Sikh community all over the world for our planet.”
Guterres was given a tour of the gurdwara complex by a team of government officials led by Religious Affairs Minister Pir Noorul Haq Qadri.
The UN Chief arrived in Islamabad on Sunday as part of his four-day visit to the country to attend an international conference on Afghan refugees, held to mark four decades since Pakistan started hosting displaced persons escaping conflict plaguing neighboring Afghanistan.