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Last Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005, 18:13 GMT 19:13 UK
UK charity hails quake 'miracle'
By Susannah Cullinane
BBC News

Almost a week after the South Asia quake, a UK education charity is still desperate for news of its 900 pupils and staff.

The director of Learning for Life said the situation did not look good, but that there had been one "miracle" since she last spoke to the BBC News website earlier in the week.

Injured boy in front of tents in Manshera
Ms Samant said children would need to regain "a sense of safety"
Ujwala Samant said one of the organisation's two field officers had been found alive after Saturday's earthquake.

"One school officer in Manshera is injured - he's in hospital but he's fine. Mr Abdur Rasheed - he's been found.

"I'm just happy that he's alive - I'm ecstatic.

"Mr Rasheed is basically the person who's the lifeline between the field and the head office.

"We have 19 schools in area and two school officers. It's really difficult to manage 19 schools - our staff are amazing."

She said the charity's chief executive Masood Ul Mulk was in Manshera hoping to hear more about what they were dubbing the "Miracle of Abdur Rasheed".

"Because it is a miracle," she said.

Damage assessment

But staff are still finding it hard to get news of individual schools and pupils, she said.

Earlier this week the UK charity told how it feared many of the 900 pupils at its schools in Pakistan may have been killed or orphaned in the earthquake.

In Sri Lanka, after the tsunami, schools gave children a sense of normalcy, so reconstruction is a priority
Ujwala Samant

Children were in class at the time of the disaster and there has been little news since.

"Now that the roads have been opened it's going to be easier to get a little more information.

"What they are trying to do is assess the extent of the damage and the issues.

"Right now I want to know what we have left and what we can do for those who are there," said Ms Samant.

She said it was important to understand what the children had gone through.

"We've got to give them the sense of safety again and that's going to take a lot of time to build.

"In Sri Lanka, after the tsunami, schools gave children a sense of normalcy, so reconstruction is a priority."

Devastated households

Ms Samant said the statistics for children at Learning for Life schools were not good.

A woman and child walk over rubble in Balakot
About 95% of households in Balakot suffered in the earthquake

"We've had an estimate of how many households have been affected. Households are not just nuclear families - they are extended families.

"In Battagram, where we have two schools, there are 158 villages and the total number 11,690 and 10,790 have been affected.

"By affected I mean directly impacted as in having no homes left, deaths and injuries."

Ms Samant said in Bakalot 19,000 of 20,900 households had been affected and in the Manshera area 9,865 out of 19,467.

Reconstruction

In the immediate aftermath of such devastation, Ms Samant said, temporary accommodation was needed.

"Right now they need tents desperately because there are no roofs left."

Within the next two or three weeks people will have lost their interest in the region and the earthquake and that's when they'll need help
Ujwala Samant
Learning for Life

She said Learning for Life was trying to send tents as well as money.

But they were not so easy to come by, she said: "As you can imagine everyone wants tents."

After the survivors' immediate needs have been met the charity will focus on reconstruction.

"Our partners are concerned that within the next two or three weeks people will have lost their interest in the region and the earthquake and that's when they'll need help.

"Our main focus would be reconstruction - because building communities is what we do."

"It's the reconstruction we want to focus on and it's something we absolutely need help with."

Donations to Learning for Life can be made on the charity's website www.learningforlifeuk.org


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