UN agencies provide relief to quake victims in Pakistan but needs remain enormous

13 October 2005
Convoy of WFP trucks in Abbottabad

The United Nations is continuing to provide emergency assistance to victims of the recent devastating earthquake in Pakistan, but hunger and disease continue to loom and more aid is urgently needed, officials said today.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which has experts on the ground, warned that many survivors of the 8 October quake need surgery and basic medical care. With an estimated 22,000 to 33,000 people already dead, 1 million in acute need of emergency assistance, and tens of thousands suffering from broken limbs, head and spinal trauma, and open wounds, many risk infection, severe illness and unnecessary amputations if they don't receive help soon, the agency warned.

Over 26 hospitals and 600 health clinics have been destroyed, WHO's Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Hussein Gezairy said, calling for a doubling or tripling of the number of doctors, including general practitioners, paramedics and epidemiologists. Emergency supplies are also desperately needed, including anaesthetics, antibiotics, intravenous fluids, painkillers, bandages, and medicine such as insulin.

The agency is currently providing emergency health kits that can cover basic health needs for 210,000 people for a month, and surgical kits for 1,000 surgeries. They will also be providing tetanus vaccines, and 100,000 chlorine tablets to disinfect water, while malaria officers will begin spraying the area against mosquitoes.

In the north Pakistan, a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Guebre Christo, said that additional helicopters are desperately needed to ferry victims for emergency health care.

"My heart really went out to the huge number of wounded people lying by the helipad, waiting from someone to take them to an appropriate hospital," she said, noting that the agency was negotiating for access to ambulances donated by the Republic of Korea.

UNHCR has scheduled back-to-back air flights and truckloads of supplies to the hardest hit areas of Pakistan. Plastic tents, blankets, plastic sheets and jerry cans for holding water are all being delivered.

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has delivered tons of high energy biscuits to the towns of Mansehra and Muzaffarabad, and a huge airlift of additional supplies are expected to arrive on Friday.

Some 12,000 people have received a two-day ration of high-energy biscuits in Muzaffarabad, the city worst hit by last Saturday's quake. WFP staff described the scene as proceeding smoothly compared to the first day they brought relief, which was chaotic as crowds scrambled for blankets, food and other items. They also described dazed and confused survivors wandering around the ruins or simply sitting on the side of the road waiting for help.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported that it had air freighted 2,000 water filters, and trucked in water containers and soap, while the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported it had purchased medicines on the local market.

An outpouring of sympathy from countries around the world has continued as the situation in Pakistan has become clearer. Among them, Norway donated 33 tons of high energy biscuits, which were shipped for free by a corporate donor, TNT. Last night Canada announced it would donate $4.2 million for air operations, with Switzerland donating $500,000 and Saudi Arabia $860,000 plus 4,000 tons of dates, said WFP.

The UN Foundation Board has committed $1 million to help support the UN's immediate response in the affected countries of Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, build critical communications and logistics capacities, and support with aid coordination.

In addition, the UN Foundation established the South Asia Earthquake Response Fund to allow individual donations in support of the UN's emergency relief, reconstruction, and rehabilitation efforts.

"Once again, survivors of disaster have turned to the UN and the international community in their time of need," said Ted Turner, Founder and Chairman of the UN Foundation. "The world needs the UN's leadership in these times, and the UN needs the world's support."


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