With temperatures expecting to fall below zero degrees in some places, relief and rehabilitation has become exceedingly tricky. The 7.5 magnitude earthquake that rattled Pakistan on October 26 left 271 dead, and demolished 35,491 houses — and counting. While the numbers themselves are harrowing enough, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

Islamic charities have voiced their concerns over increasing difficulties of earthquake affectees in KP, Fata and northern areas of Pakistan. The groups have said that their volunteers were facing severe problems while shifting hundreds of injured from icy mountains to the nearest hospitals due to destruction of bridges and roads by the earthquake. Houses, schools and hospitals as well as other infrastructures in Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram agencies and Frontier regions had also been damaged in a large number. It reported around 4,000 livestock deaths in only Fata regions. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has issued warnings for precautionary measures for all relief efforts. Many of the areas that were hit by the quake are about to experience extreme temperatures including scattered rains and snowfall.

Pakistan has to learn from the experiences of others. When a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal in April this year, their government was quick to hand out not just rations but also materials that mountainous communities could use to build temporary shelters. The national media is so focused on the politics at the centre that the northern areas get an ‘out of sight out of mind’ kind of treatment- whether it is Zarb-e-Azb, the IDP crisis or the earthquake.

The NDMA, PDMAs, and armed forces, have collectively given out around 36,299 tents, in areas that suffer from some of the harshest weather possible, but can a tent weather the icy storm that’s right around the corner for these communities? Moreover, relief efforts must also take into account how long rations can last for these communities. Will they be able to get by on what they are being provided with in the coming months? Relief efforts always peter out as media coverage dies down. We have no long-term plan, where simply getting throttled by one disaster after another cannot be an option for the country anymore. Countless lives have been lost; many have been stranded with their homes completely destroyed. There cannot be a clearer wake-up call for us.