While the much talked about ‘donor fatigue’ did not occur during the relief phase for last year’s devastating Pakistani earthquake, any slackening of aid during the reconstruction stage could lead to hardship for many survivors next winter, a senior United Nations relief official has warned.
“The relief operation was complex and challenging but not necessarily the most difficult part of the job,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) coordinator for Pakistan, Jan Vandemoortele said, stressing that it will be a long haul before the affected people can return to their normal lives.
“The United Nations is confident that the international community will continue to show strong support.”
OCHA noted the “relative success of relief efforts for the 8 October quake, which killed over 73,000 people, injured nearly 70,000 and left millions more homeless. A second wave of deaths was avoided, no massive population movements took place and no epidemics broke out.
More than 500,000 tents were delivered, some 5 million iron sheets were distributed and over 6 million blankets/quilts were provided. A nutrition survey showed no major food deficiency compared to the pre-earthquake level. Recorded mortality in the affected areas was not higher than during the previous winter.
Thousands of latrine slabs were installed; safe water was restored to over 700,000 people. Over 1 million children were vaccinated against measles. Countless helicopters - from the Pakistani Military, UN, North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO), United States and other countries - airlifted food and non-food items.
Mr. Vandemoortele attributed the success to strong national leadership and excellent international partnership. Noting that ‘donor fatigue’ did not occur, he said the UN Flash Appeal was generously funded.
But as the focus shifts to reconstruction, experience from other countries shows that activities tend to fall to a low ebb once relief phases out. If this were to happen, many survivors could face another difficult situation next winter, OCHA warned, noting that the humanitarian community is striving for a smooth transition.
The major challenges foreseen in the coming months are road accessibility in remote areas, potential land slides, continued assistance for vulnerable people, and ensuring that basic services reach universal coverage.
A few camps will remain for vulnerable people and groups with special needs, including orphans and unaccompanied children, people with physical disabilities, the elderly, landless people or urban residents who cannot camp in their backyards. Residual aid will focus on the neediest and will be delivered to foster early recovery in such projects as cash-for-work, food-for-work schemes and food for girls enrolled in school.