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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 October 2006, 23:56 GMT 00:56 UK
How UK rallied for earthquake victims
British aid plane being unloaded in Kashmir
Plane loads of supplies were flown from Britain
On 8 October 2005 a massive earthquake hit parts of Pakistan and northern India, killing thousands and wreaking devastation in a remote and hard-to-reach mountainous region.

A massive aid effort was going to be needed.

In Britain - thousands of miles from the epicentre of the quake in Kashmir - the fundraising machine swung into action, with aid organisations working around the clock to amass donations and ship emergency supplies.

Coming hot on the heels of Hurricane Katrina in the US and the Asian tsunami, there were fears it might prove a disaster too far for an appeal-exhausted public.

But, as footage of the devastation was beamed into living rooms across the country, people once again dug deep, raising tens of millions of pounds - 60m through the main Disasters Emergency Committee appeal alone - and donating lorry loads of items such as clothing and blankets.

In addition, the UK government donated 124m.

In the end, more money was raised in Britain than had been raised in any appeal, except that for the tsunami victims.

There were all these negative stereotypes to be overcome and all these other perceptions and yet the British public overcame that and donated so generously
Waseem Yaqub

Waseem Yaqub, UK manager of the charity Islamic Relief and a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee - the umbrella group of aid organisations which co-ordinated the main UK appeal - says he was initially unsure of the public response but in the end it surpassed his expectations.

Mr Yaqub - himself of Pakistani descent - said: "Let's be honest, Pakistan does not have a positive image in the eyes of British people.

"Some of it's to do with racism and some is because some of the people who have come from Pakistan have not been good neighbours.

National generosity

"There were all these negative stereotypes to be overcome and yet the British public overcame that and donated so generously. I think that shows something of the depth of good character of our nation."

Mr Yaqub also praises the efforts of International Development Secretary Hilary Benn and his team at the Department for International Development, without whose efforts "a fraction" of the aid would have been raised, he says.

The British Muslim population alone raised between 20m and 22m in the three months to December 2005 - a fact Mr Yaqub says makes him "very proud".

But donations flooded in not just from Muslim communities but from every section of UK society.
A tent village in Balakot, Pakistan
Thousands face another cold winter living in tents

Ishfaq Ahmed, founder and chief executive of east London-based charity Kashmir International Relief Fund (KIRF), describes the response as "phenomenal".

He said: "Honestly, I cannot give enough thanks to the British public. The response was so huge, it was unbelievable."

He says the KIRF - a small organisation previously dependent on British Kashmiris for funding - was inundated with offers of help and donations, not just from the UK but from all over the world - raising about 700,000.

Bare feet

After the quake, as his team worked around the clock, he says people were dropping off donations day and night.

As the media coverage continued, so did the offers of help.

Mr Ahmed said: "Three months after the earthquake ITN aired a news item from Kashmir showing some little kids walking barefoot in three or four feet of snow. The next day, a lady from Berkshire rang me and said, 'I couldn't sleep last night. I want to do something'."

People didn't think about the colour of the people or what religion they were or their beliefs, they just donated
Ishfaq Ahmed

"She wanted to collect shoes to send. I said shoes wouldn't be suitable because it would cost too much to send them but she could help with socks, woolly hats, and so on.

"She went round her area, put leaflets through every door and in shops and she collected one and a half van loads of mittens, socks, mufflers and woolly hats for those kids.

"That's the kind of response we had. People didn't think about the colour of the people or what religion they were or their beliefs, they just donated."

Thanks to the success of the appeal, relief organisations were able to stop tens of thousands of people perishing in harsh winter conditions, by providing tents and emergency shelters.

Pace 'frustrating'

Once that threat had subsided, they started longer-term projects to build permanent housing and provide vocational training to the many who lost breadwinners and livelihoods.

But progress on building permanent housing and other reconstruction has been painfully slow and often frustrating for those in the UK who have worked so hard to send aid.

Mr Ahmed says: "It has been a very hard year. We wanted to do so much but have often been restricted by the authorities there. The pace they work to is so slow."

But without proper shelter, he warns the plight of many in the quake zone remains dire, with 1.8 million facing another bitterly cold winter in the open air.

With the first anniversary of the quake focusing media attention on the disaster once again, he hopes the public will be reminded of the suffering still going on.

"I hope it will bring home the message that the help's not finished and we need to do more. We need to donate more and dig more into our pockets and give whatever we can."

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