The Bam Earthquake

Project Emergency Medical Relief, Mental Health Support, Distribution of Food and Non Food Items
Project Partners


On 26th December 2003, an earthquake measuring 6.51 on the Richter scale struck the city of Bam and its surrounding villages in Kerman province, situated in south-eastern of Iran, approximately 850 kms from Tehran. The city of Bam is famous for its 2,500 year old ancient citadel, the oldest mud building in the world. It also produces the famous Bam Dates of Iran. Most buildings in the affected area were sun-dried brick masonry constructions which could not withstand the earthquake. Although the impact of the earthquake seemed to be limited to a relatively small area of about 16 km in radius, the damage was catastrophic.


The earthquake killed 26,000 people, rendered more than 75,000 people homeless and severely damaged or destroyed about 85% of the houses, commercial units, health facilities and administrative buildings in the city of Bam and surrounding villages. The 2,500 year old historic citadel of Bam (Arg-e-Bam), an internationally known heritage site and an important source of income for Bam’s tourist industry, was destroyed.


Emergency Medical Relief

48 hours from the moment the earthquake hit Bam, MERCY Malaysia responded by sending in an Emergency Assessment Team. Our first emergency medical team, equipped with much needed supplies of anaesthetic drugs, third generation antibiotics and bone fixators, left on New Year’s eve of 2004 for Iran. Soon after, they began to work in a field hospital set up by the Italian Civil Defence in the suburb of Baravat, 13 km from Bam city.

Together with Iranian doctors from the Ministry of Health and Medical Education, MERCY Malaysia continued to run the field hospital until April 2004. With a high case load of approximately 175 patients per day, MERCY Malaysia’s volunteers treated close to 18,000 patients in Baravat. A total of nine missions were deployed.

Mental Health Support

MERCY Malaysia implemented two core programmes in the area of mental health intervention. With almost one in five people dead, the disaster touched the lives of almost everybody in Bam and Baravat.

Our mental health volunteers conducted tent visits, and through interpreters, engaged each individual in direct one-to-one debriefing sessions. Approximately 400 patients were seen during our tent visits, and 87 of them were treated further in follow-up visits.

This preventive approach was supplemented by our psychological outpatient clinic which saw between three to five patients each day, most of them being follow-up patients returning from the previous tent visits and referrals from the outpatient department of our Field Hospital. In total, 236 patients were treated during these sessions.

In addition, our teams also conducted several short programmes which included a group debriefi ng session in Bam, training of Iranian mental health professionals, a drawing and story telling session at a girls’ school, a football match and clowning session at a boys’ school, and a debriefi ng session for two kindergartens, all in Baravat. A psychosocial programme was also conducted at a child day care centre, where biscuits and milk were given to the children as nutritional supplement, as well as an incentive for them to participate. In June 2004, MERCY Malaysia successfully handed over the mental health support facilities to the Iranian Social Welfare Organisation.

Distribution of Food and Non Food Items

During the mission in Baravat, MERCY Malaysia also carried out various distribution programmes to aid the affected population. These included distribution of food and non-food items, hygiene packs, and a Qurban project, with sheep donated by Yayasan Al-Bukhary.

Reconstruction Project – Health Centre in Bam

As the health infrastructure was virtually destroyed in the earthquake, MERCY Malaysia on 18th February 2004, signed a Memorandum of Agreement, pledging a total of RM1million to the Social Security Organisation (SSO) for the rebuilding of a Health Centre in Bam. This project will serve the health needs of the community, and will be the only health centre in the city of Bam.

The SSO has undertaken to acquire land, equip, furnish and staff the Health Centre, which is expected to be between 1,000–1,500 square metres in size. With the fulfi lment of all the necessary pre-construction requirements, a groundbreaking ceremony was conducted in December 2004, marking the moment of commencement of the City of Bam Health Centre project.

In summary, MERCY Malaysia sent a total of 61 volunteers, EXCO members and staff who contributed approximately 8,000 volunteer hours for our Bam Earthquake Relief project