The United Nations today launched a $272-million flash appeal to help Pakistan recover from last Saturday’s devastating earthquake, which killed more than 30,000 people, injured some 60,000 more and left 1 million others in acute need of life-saving assistance, 2.5 million homeless and 4 million affected.
“A generous response to this appeal will be critical to help people in need,” Hansjoerg Strohmeyer, Chief of Staff to UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland, told a news briefing in New York. Speaking within hours of the launch he said initial indications from donors so far amounted to around $70 million.
The appeal covers life-saving and early recovery activities for a six-month emergency phase in a remote region with enormous logistical difficulties, where landslides have cut off many roads, access is only possible by foot or helicopter, and more than 80 per cent of buildings have been destroyed in some areas.
Priority needs include shelter (winterized tents, plastic sheets, blankets, mattresses), nutrition (pre-cooked canned food, high energy biscuits, survival rations), medicines (antibiotics, typhoid medicines, first aid and surgical kits, water purification tablets) and transport (helicopters).
“The situation is very, very critical, very severe, 60 to 70 per cent of all the housing, of accommodation has been destroyed,” Mr. Strohmeyer said, citing a report today from a disaster team of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), one of the first to get into the main city of Muzaffarabad by helicopter.
“The rest of the city is uninhabitable. We have heavy rain in the area, mudslides that make access to even those in need very, very difficult. General access to the area is incredibly difficult. We only have one small road open for light vehicles. There is no road that would allow heavy truck traffic into the area,” he added.
“We are dependent at the moment on heavy lifting logistics equipment, helicopters,” he said. “Airlifting logistics capacity at the moment is critical life-saving assistance and is needed.” One of the most urgent needs is shelter materials for the 2.5 million homeless.
Medical care is also required immediately, as most of the hospitals and health care centres have been destroyed, OCHA said. Food and clean water are also in short supply. Many cities and villages in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), the most affected areas, have been wiped out.
UN agencies are already on the ground bringing in convoys of relief aid. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has begun distributing basic relief supplies for up to 100,000 people using its existing stockpiles throughout the region, including family tents, blankets and stoves. The first truckloads bound for Mansehra in North West Frontier Province left the Peshawar warehouse yesterday.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is initially airlifting 200 metric tons of high energy biscuits, sufficient for 240,000 people, vital in the first days of a natural disaster when survivors have no means to cook their own food.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has begun trucking in medical supplies, warning that tens of thousands of women in the affected areas are currently pregnant and need adequate nutrition, medicines and antenatal care to deliver safely.
The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) said the quake proved again how important it is to build safe hospital and schools in disaster-prone areas. Many schools were damaged during the earthquake with the result that children were buried alive under the rubble.
“Reinforcing buildings in disaster-prone areas is essential. Losing hospitals becomes a ‘double disaster’ if they are not built to withstand earthquakes: a disaster in that they are destroyed, but also that their equipment and their staff are no longer available to rescue other victims,” ISDR Director Salvano Briceño said.
“The destruction of schools, as has tragically happened last Saturday, means the loss of new generations. New constructions need to be built safe, and old ones need to be systematically reinforced or retrofitted to avoid future disasters.”