Published on Wednesday, November 9, 2005 by OneWorld US
Relief Groups Seek Life-Saving Funds as Pakistan Quake Toll Soars
by Abid Aslam
WASHINGTON - International relief workers issued urgent appeals for money Tuesday as the harsh Himalayan winter threatened to kill untold numbers of people
The appeals came as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, working with local governments and aid agencies, estimated that 87,350 people had perished in the Oct. 8 quake, up from the Pakistan government's previous official body count of around 73,000.
Pakistani officials said even Tuesday's higher figure could increase.
India has reported 1,350 deaths on its side of the Line of Control dividing Kashmir into portions administered by it and by Pakistan.
Winter poses the greatest danger now.
''People will freeze to death if they don't get assistance in weeks,'' U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland was quoted as saying in New York. ''It's even more urgent than it was in these other hurricanes or tsunamis,'' he added, referring to last December's Indian Ocean disaster and storms that have ravaged the U.S., Mexican, and Central American coastlines.
Emilie Parry, deputy director for humanitarian response at Oxfam America, said a new wave of deaths from hypothermia, pneumonia, and communicable diseases appeared ''imminent.'' Meteorologists have forecast snow within the week.
''If resources are not quickly made accessible to isolated communities so they can make it through the winter, the risk of death and unnecessary suffering is imminent,'' she said. ''People need winterized tents, medicine, clothing, and blankets.''
U.N. and non-governmental relief workers appeared unanimous in decrying what they termed an insufficient international response to the calamity.
''There has not been the kind of funding support, both from institutional donors and private donors, so necessary for the scale of this disaster,'' said Parry.
The U.N. ''Flash Appeal'' for the South Asia earthquake stands at only 15 percent funded with $85 million of $550 million committed, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Tuesday.
An additional $49 million has been offered in unconfirmed pledges. If these donations were confirmed, the total would rise to only 24 percent of what international relief workers have said is the minimum needed.
U.N. Agencies and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said they were bracing for a current shortfall of $42.4 million needed to carry out the most immediate life-saving activities during November. Without that money, they warned, a number of basic programs would have to close.
Some 3.5 million people were affected by the earthquake, which measured 7.5 on the Richter scale and struck an area of nearly 12,000 square miles. Half a million people remain without any shelter one month after the quake and snow is expected to drive tens of thousands more from the higher reaches to besieged tent encampments on lower ground.
Most hospitals, schools, and government buildings were destroyed. Landslides have blocked roads, rockslides are a constant danger, and villages perched high on isolated mountain ranges and deep in remote valleys mean hundreds of thousands of survivors still have not received aid, the U.N. said.
The emergency shelter situation has improved, with some 132,000 tents donated by the international humanitarian community and 241,000 tents provided by the Pakistani government.
But the agency warned that even survivors with tents remain in peril, as equipment must be upgraded to withstand the harsh onslaught of rain, wind, and snow.
Helicopters have been essential in overcoming treacherous terrain and reaching remote locations in what U.N. Agencies and charities alike have described as one of the most challenging emergency operations they've ever confronted.
The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) said it had deployed an MI-26, the world's largest helicopter, to fly relief supplies, especially to the Neelum and Jhelum valleys of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where many isolated communities have received little assistance.
The MI-26 can carry 20 metric tons, or ten times as much as the MI-8, the standard U.N. helicopter used during emergency operations. Another four MI-26s were to be deployed, the agency said, bringing its total deployment of 17 transport helicopters of various types to a new total of 22 by Thursday.
While the heavy-duty helicopters would boost deliveries of relief supplies, including bulldozers to help the Pakistani army clear blocked roads, WFP warned that their continued use would depend on more funding from the international community.
The agency said it had received only $9.8 million of the $100 million it needs to run its Pakistan air operation. The MI-26 alone costs $11,000 per hour to operate--not counting an additional $2,000 per hour in fuel costs.
''The window of opportunity to pre-position emergency relief stocks by helicopter is quickly closing, with about four weeks remaining until snow seals off mountain villages,'' Amer Daoudi, WFP's logistics chief, said in a statement. ''Unless further contributions quickly materialize, we will not be able to deliver the needed quantities of relief aid, and will have to start phasing down our helicopter fleet.''
While U.N. Agencies and international charities solicited increased support from donor governments, they also issued calls for individuals and community groups to aid in their efforts.
International and U.S. Agencies with a presence on the ground in the earthquake zone and that accept tax-exempt donations from U.S. Citizens, residents, and private groups include:
Appeals for funding also were issued by Pakistani organizations with U.S. Offices and international reputations for financial, political, and religious independence. These include:
--The Citizens Foundation , a not-for-profit organization working to provide quality, secular education to less-privileged children. The group said it was providing care packages of tents, blankets, and food to 20,000 people; had set up three field hospitals; and was researching the best suited design to build 5,000 new earthquake-resistant homes over the next two years, and
--The Eqbal Ahmad Foundation , a Princeton-based organization that said it would channel contributions directly to relief and rebuilding initiatives led by faculty and students at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan. No portion of the money would be used for administrative expenses, said the group, which estimated that, working with local residents, it could rebuild a one-family home for as little as $1,000.
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