Weeks after the first earthquake thrust the south-west of Pakistan back into the news, we still aren’t able to enter the area. Our staff would love to go; some of them have family members in the affected regions. They don’t just want to go to help their parents, or their brother, or their friends; they know from first-hand experience how necessary it is that they go into this area, to come to the aid of the people who need it the most.
While we’re in Quetta and Islamabad trying to negotiate access, we still need to prepare the annual plan and budget for next year; we need to justify our projects, explain why they make a difference in this area, or else they can’t continue. The coordinator and the medical team leader must justify their ambitions in writing; then we talk about budget. These numbers – the money from our donors – shape what we are able to do.
By demonstrating the need for our presence with these projects, we also ensure that we can respond to disasters as we have seen recently. MSF has the capability and capacity to intervene quickly and efficiently if necessary, for example after an outbreak of violence or after a disaster. But an intervention can be much faster if we are already inside or close to the area, like we have done before in an area affected by an earthquake in the south of Pakistan, and in previous years when floods affected large areas in the east of the province.
On Monday, I receive the email I hoped I wouldn’t get: an email announcing the return of our employees. We still cannot enter the area. The next day the team comes into the office. Even though they could not get in, they’re still motivated to go there. They want to do what they hoped could do before; they want to go where their help is most needed.
Finalising preparations for the intervention coincides with my holidays. Taking some time outside of the project and relaxing in a quieter environment will provide a great opportunity to work through everything from the past few months. It’ll give me time to recharge, and probably also to realise how special this place is – how special it is to live and work in an area that directly and indirectly contributes to the news and recent history.
And I secretly hope that during these holidays, something will happen and the team can do what they would love to do, to do what they’re good at.