With freezing rains speeding up the race against winter and disease among hundreds of thousands of survivors of Pakistan's devastating earthquake, the United Nations has so far received in contributions and commitments less than a fifth of the $550 million it needs to aid up to 3 million people left homeless by the disaster.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today that funding for the Flash Appeal for the 8 October quake, which was increased late last month from the $312 million originally sought, now amounted to $109 million in commitments and contributions, with a further $45 million in pledges.
Meanwhile the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has deployed mobile teams to fix water- and sanitation-related problems in relief camps following an outbreak of diarrhoea among victims of the quake, which killed at least 73,000 people and injured almost as many others.
"In crowded conditions and with few basic services, health problems can easily arise. We are trying to reach as many camps as possible to prevent the outbreak of diseases," UNHCR's head of the camp management cluster Michael Zwack said.
In organized camps in the Balakot and Batagram areas, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) Oxfam and the Taraque Foundation have already set up water points, latrines and bathrooms. But hygiene standards are harder to ensure in hundreds of makeshift camps scattered across the remote mountainous region.
"The need to improve water and sanitation has never been more urgent," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva.
OCHA noted that the Pakistani army had reported that there are 160,000 people living above the snow line in Kaghan Valley and the Allai. Those who remain in their villages there urgently need shelter assistance, including the winterization of tents already provided, in order to survive the winter or they have to move to lower areas.
In the Mansehra region, UNHCR has deployed the first of 20 "quick impact" teams to fix technical problems in both organised and makeshift camps, bringing supplies to build latrines and hiring plumbers, masons, carpenters and electricians to set up a basic infrastructure in the camps.
More UNHCR-funded mobile groups are being deployed, with a total of 32 teams planned in Mansehra, Bagh and Muzaffarabad.
"We've requested UNHCR to come and advise us on the technical aspects of camp management and on operational issues like services," said Major Ashad Ali, a Pakistan army official overseeing the new Ghazi Kot camp near Mansehra. "We're not moving people in until all the services are functioning, even on minimum basis."
In response, a UNHCR mobile team today procured wooden panels and other materials to set up latrines. By the end of the day, eight emergency latrines were ready. Another 100 UNHCR tents are on their way to supplement the 98 already there.
By late this afternoon, the joint UNHCR/NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) airlift out of Turkey's Incirlik airbase had transported a total of more than 1,060 tons of UNHCR relief items on 83 separate sorties. Hundreds more tonnes have also been brought in by air from Dubai and Jordan and overland from Afghanistan and Iran.