A team of British vets is en route to the earthquake zone in Pakistan to ascertain the needs of countless horses, donkeys and mules caught up in the disaster. The team, which has been sent by animal welfare charity The Brooke, will arrive in Balakot in Pakistan’s north-west frontier within the next couple of days.

“We do not know how many animals have been affected and what kind of relief is needed yet, so the team is going to assess the situation,” says Nicki Austin from The Brooke. “The communication is still very bad out there and the weather is changeable so we don’t expect to hear from them for a while”.

The well being of these working animals will be of crucial importance to those devastated by the earthquake struggle as they try to rebuild their lives.

“Horses, donkeys and mules are absolutely crucial to the livelihood of these people. They depend on them to make money,” Austin explains. Working animals form the backbone of the economy in these parts of Pakistan with one animal alone delivering an income for up to 20 people. ”

While emergency relief operations are underway, the Brooke will be quickly assessing how it can use its expertise to help people in these shattered communities restore their lives as quickly as possible — in particular return their working animals to good health thus giving them a chance to earn a living again.

“We are looking to give immediate relief,” Nicki explained, “But also relief on a mid to long term basis, supporting people as they get their lives back together”.

The Brooke’s main form of aid is providing free veterinary care and education programmes via a network of mobile units. “We don’t usually give emergency relief but in this instance we are because we are the largest relief organisation in Pakistan” said Austin.

The charity began operating in Pakistan in 1991 and last year helped a quarter of a million working horses, donkeys and mules across five regions of the country, including Peshawar, a large city close to affected regions, and over the border in Jalalabad in Afghanistan.

Despite not usually offering emergency relief, The Brooke has had experience of helping devastated communities in the past when it sent emergency veterinary teams to the Gujarat region of India in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in 2001, and in 2002 its Pakistan-based vets tended to stricken animals of Afghan refugees in camps on the Pakistan border.

For more information visit: www.thebrooke.org