Pakistan: with snows coming, UN on standby for large influx of quake survivors

6 December 2005
WFP trucks in Pakistan

With heavy snow forecast in northern Pakistan by the end of this week, the United Nations refugee agency is standing by for a possible exodus of up to 230,000 earthquake survivors from higher elevations and needs over $5 million more to funding its operations through the harsh Himalayan winter.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) plans to have 43 mobile teams on the ground by the end of this week, providing technical advice and aid to the army and the Pakistani authorities in 30 organized camps and scores of spontaneous camps, eventually expanding the number of teams to 65.

UNHCR's main priority is assisting local authorities with the 'winterization' of planned and spontaneous camps,” agency spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva today.

“It is crucial that every tent has a minimum of two plastic sheets, four mattresses, a stove and fuel and that each person has three blankets. We are also tapping the knowledge of Afghan refugees on how to winterize tents through the safe use of stoves,” she said, referring to the millions of Afghans who sought refuge in Pakistan over the past 25 years.

The 8 October quake killed some 80,000 people, injured as many others and left up to 3 million homeless.

The Pakistan government estimates that 100,000-200,000 more people could come down in the North West Frontier Province and 30,000 in Pakistan-administered Kashmir with this week’s snows.

UNHCR is continuing to fly in relief items. In the coming weeks, together with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), it plans to transport 30,000 stoves by commercially chartered planes from Turkey and Jordan, and some by road from Iran.

“We are buying some 250,000 blankets in India and China to add to the 600,000 blankets we have already sent to Pakistan,” Ms. Pagonis said. “We are also planning to dispatch over 100,000 plastic sheets from our recently replenished emergency stockpile in Copenhagen and are sending an additional 15 vehicles for our teams on the ground.

“Needs however, continue to remain high on the ground, particularly with the possibility of population movements from higher elevations. So far we have received $24.52 million in funding but we need over $30 million to get through the winter period.”


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