In 2006, following the devastating 2005 earthquake in Pakistan that killed 73,000 and left 3.3 million homeless, I travelled to one of the worst hit towns in the North West Frontier Province. Upon arrival, I witnessed the extraordinary scale of devastation and human suffering following the strongest quake in Pakistan’s history. This natural disaster, in addition to others, increased the vulnerability of thousands of children who faced a variety of serious challenges ranging from malnutrition, poor access to education and health facilities, to exploitation in the form of child labor.
UNICEF’s immediate response provided food, water, shelter and healthcare to alleviate the suffering and emphasized an urgent push to have many of the surviving children return to makeshift schools. This helped roughly 500,000 displaced children, many of whom were traumatized by the calamity. A classroom experience for these children was one of the few pathways to stability, structure and a sense of normalcy.
I shared my observations of Pakistan and UNICEF’s recovery work on the Oprah Winfrey Show, urging viewers to continue to support the critical needs of the Pakistani children.