One year after the earthquake in Kashmir: Interview with national staff member, Sajjad Hussein Khan, Assistant Administrator in Bagh
"I joined MSF one month after the earthquake and my idea was to help the people by struggling in an organized way. Then I saw MSF was running the city hospital and mobile clinics in surrounding villages."
Can you describe the situation just after the earthquake?
"After the October 8, 2005, earthquake, the people were paralysed due to a huge destruction of their properties, death of relatives and injured family members - most of the injured with broken legs, hands and backbones. I'm from Bagh and I faced this situation.
"People were uncertain about those who were still caught under debris, but also afraid that the surviving people would die because of the many aftershocks. All the roads were blocked due to landslides. Water disappeared on the surface. It was so catastrophic that is not possible to explain it in words.
"The first priority was to transport injured people to Rawalpindi or Islamabad to receive adequate treatment, given that the Bagh hospital had collapsed and was completely destroyed.
After sending patients to hospitals, the main problem was to find food and shelter. But people looked paralysed, shocked and they were not able to react immediately. They were traumatised. There was only one topic of discussion and it was the earthquake. They were scared of the possibility of another earthquake."
At what point did you join MSF and what is your role in the organisation?
"I joined MSF one month after the earthquake and my idea was to help the people by struggling in an organized way. Then I saw MSF was running the city hospital and mobile clinics in surrounding villages. I was hired as administrator and, apart from the office work, I had to arrange transportation for medical and distribution teams, arrange food stuff for the team, running after the staff, and dealing with the people who came looking for the shelter kits and tents."
What is the most striking think you remember from the intervention?
"Patients represented the most striking memory for me because at that moment we had a lot of injured and when we brought them to the hospital, we discovered that it was destroyed. A lot of wounded were just lying on the ground without any facility. Many of them were crying and were shocked. Harsh living conditions were also a painful memory. People didn't have any shelter for the first two or three days and they were just lying under the open sky."
What is the situation like one year after the earthquake? Is the situation back to normal? Is the earthquake still part of everybody's life?
"After one year, the situation looks almost normal but still the people don't have proper shelters for next winter. Some of them are still afraid of October 8. I have seen a lot of people scared about the one year anniversary. In every discussion you can listen to, people are talking about the earthquake. Is incredible how it now is a common part of everybody's life."
What do you see as the next challenges?
"In my opinion, the first challenge is the availability of proper residential places or construction of homes for the displaced. One year ago, many people were terrorised about the coming winter. Today, there are still a lot of families that still don't have a place to go."