The devastation brought by the earthquake in northern Pakistan in early October drew a special response from Pakistanis living in the United States. Pakistani community groups have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to relief effort and many doctors have gone to the scene to help victims of the quake. During a visit to the disaster zone VOA's Greg Flakus met some of the Pakistani-American doctors at a field hospital in Muzaffarabad and filed this report.
Several of the doctors here are members of the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America, which has sent more than 70 doctors to the disaster zone in the last two months.
The needs of the earthquake victims are great and the situation could worsen as winter approaches.
Doctor Nisar Chaudhry came here from the U.S. state of Maryland. He told us, "By the grace of God, I think, it will be a unique opportunity for America as well as Pakistan and Pakistani-Americans to build this partnership in a very sustainable level by combining compassion with these kind of services."
Compassion for earthquake victims in his homeland drew Doctor Mushtag Sheikh here all the way from Elmira, New York.
"We can speak not only English, but Urdu, Punjabi and a few of the languages of the area. So we can communicate with the patients, because that was the biggest problem initially."
One old man suffers from heart disease and was near death when he arrived. He is now recuperating under Doctor Sheikh's care.
But what worries the doctor are the problems to come.
When the earthquake hit the area,” said Doctor Sheik, “the initial medical problem was multiple injuries, multiple fractures, bruised limbs, ruptured spleen, kidneys, all those.… Now, we are seeing more of the medical problems because of those people being exposed to the cold temperatures and living in a crowded situation in the tents, we are seeing any kind of illness, including bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, malnutrition…"
But Dr. Sheikh knows that, with the approach of winter, medical problems will increase.
"When there are so many people crowded together in a small area any infectious disease will get spread from one to another. I feel sorry for these people, my brethren, who are going through such a hardship, because of this natural calamity."