Acumen Fund CEO Jacqueline Novogratz has been visiting earthquake-affected areas of Pakistan, and documenting her travels in a journal. Excerpts of each day’s entry will be posted.
December 6 – Balakot
Balakot lies at the beginning of the Kaghan Valley. It was a major stop en route to the mountain areas known for tourism, with a resident population, including those in the valley around it, of around 40,000. On October 8, in a matter of minutes, the initial shock of the earthquake killed tens of thousands. It is estimated that in total, 75% of all residents ultimately were killed.
Seventy-five percent. Three out of four people. Thirty thousand people.
The city itself is a heap of dust and rubble spread over little hills and concentrated by the river, whose edge is littered with broken concrete – shards of what used to be small buildings.
For years after the World Trade Center towers fell, I remember looking into the sky expecting to see those great buildings in the skyline. It took some time to integrate into myself that the skyline had changed forever, that the buildings were no longer part of it. The residents of Balakot must imagine themselves seeing the gas station and the Fairy Tale Hotel, the school and their own houses a hundred times a day.
There is hardly anyone left in Balakot, but it must be one of Pakistan’s deepest wounds. Though it is undoubtedly a logistical nightmare, rebuilding Balakot could be a symbol of national healing, a true partnership between the government, which would rebuild infrastructure, and the private sector, which could not only help rebuild homes but also attract new people to come and breathe life into an economy no longer even on a respirator.