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Economics Professor Helps Spearhead Relief Efforts After Pakistan Earthquake

Professor Tahir Andrabi’s family has lived in Muzaffarad, Pakistan for four generations. He spent many holidays there, swimming in the Jhelum, climbing the formidable mountain Pir Chinassi and roaming around in Jalalabad gardens.

On Saturday, October 8, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake devastated communities throughout northern Pakistan and India, including Muzaffarabad. Since then, Andrabi has been working intensely on both local and international relief efforts.

“I hate to call Pakistan because every phone call results in the news of a loss of another person,” says Andrabi. “With the death toll crossing the 30,000 mark, and with over 50,000 people left injured, hungry and homeless, we need all the help we can get.”

Because of his connections to the World Bank and with Pakistan government officials, developed through years of research and work to improve Pakistani education, Andrabi has been appointed to the World Bank/Government of Pakistan coordinating team for relief work and needs assessment for the damage. The group includes representatives from the United Nations and other disaster experts who are developing a GIS mapping tool to allow them to assess the damage in far-flung villages. Landslides have blocked access to many of the Himalayan towns and villages.

On a community level, Andrabi and his wife, Shaila Andrabi, are working on a fundraising program to support the Children's Unit of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Services (PIMS), the main hospital in Islamabad for medicine and care for children that are coming from the earthquake areas for treatment.

According to Dr. Tabish Hazir, the Andrabi’s pediatrician during their sabbatical in Islamabad in 2000, the first group of 200 children from the affected areas have already arrived. “Most of the injuries are broken bones,” says Andrabi. “Dr. Tabish is really worried that while the roads opening up is good news, his unit is going to be swamped with casualties coming from the quake stricken areas so we need to move fast.”

Knowing donors’ concerns that their contributions find their the way to the people who need it most, the Andrabis are working with the NGO Children Resource International, run by Shaila Andrabi’s sister Mehnaz Aziz. “Mehnaz has set up a database with all their names, father's name and district of residence so we can accurately track who is getting what,” reports Shaila Andrabi. “We are estimating (the need for) roughly $100 for each of these kids to arrange for stay and upkeep of family members. We hope to be able to track these children over time as well." The Andrabis hope to involve local schools in Claremont and elsewhere by putting them in direct contact with children in Pakistan who are in dire need of help.