The Bam Earthquake

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

The Bam Earthquake
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 Devastation
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.

Our Response
Emergency Medical Relief
48 hours from the moment the earthquake hit Bam,
MERCY Malaysia responded by sending in an Emergency
Assessment Team. Our fi rst emergency medical team,
equipped with much needed supplies of anaesthetic drugs,
third generation antibiotics and bone fi xators, left on New
Year’s eve of 2004 for Iran. Soon after, they began to work
in a fi eld 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 fi eld 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
fi ve 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 debriefi ng 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
fi ve 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