UN urges focus on quake relief

With thousands of children facing a basic struggle for survival in quake-hit areas of Pakistan, the United Nations has warned against shifting the focus of aid from urgent relief to reconstruction.

    The 8 October earthquake left 3.5 million people homeless

    In a statement outlining the still massive requirements for emergency aid, the UN's top relief official in Pakistan urged donors and the international community against neglecting the basic needs of 3.5 million people affected by the 8 October earthquake.


    "It is important to start building new hospitals and schools as soon as possible but it's most urgent to save the lives of thousands of children who could then make use of these schools," Jan Vandemoortele, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan, said in a statement on Friday.


    The powerful quake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale killed more than 73,000 people in northwestern Pakistan and Pakistani Kashmir and made 3.5 million others homeless.


    Billion-dollar pledges


    Donors at an international conference in Islamabad on Saturday pledged $5.8 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation.


    But an initial appeal for $550 million launched by the UN and humanitarian agencies to help quake survivors with immediate needs received less than half this amount.


    Funds are still needed for food,
    medicine and emergency shelter

    The UN Humanitarian Coordinator reiterated that many lives remained at risk as severe winter conditions set in. Relief workers were racing against time to bring basic help to people in remote mountain areas.


    While welcoming contributions of nearly $216 million, about 39% of the initial appeal, Vandemoortele stressed that the remaining amount was urgently needed for food, emergency shelter and medicines for many people.


    Winter aid


    "We urgently need extra millions of dollars to reach the earthquake survivors and other vulnerable victims, especially before the winter sets in," he said.


    Although adequate food had been given to at least one million people, the UN warned another 1.3 million had not yet been provided for.


    "The race to provide suitable shelter in time is not lost yet, but the consequences of failure, resulting from the lack of relief funds could result in the deaths of vulnerable people"

    Jan Vandemoortele,
    UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan

    The statement quoted aid workers as saying the logistics of delivering food was extremely difficult and current funding for distribution could run-out by mid-winter.


    In the area of shelter, some relief organisations have started using their own reserve funds to provide tents and winter shelter for victims.


    "The race to provide suitable shelter in time is not lost yet, but the consequences of failure, resulting from the lack of relief funds could result in the deaths of vulnerable people," Vandemoortele warned.



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