20 October 2005
Lack of Adequate Shelter, Inaccessible Communities, Plight of Children among Continuing Concerns in Pakistan Relief Effort
ISLAMABAD/GENEVA/NEW YORK, 18 October (OCHA) -- Strong aftershocks continue to traumatize the survivors of the 8 October earthquake in northern regions of Pakistan, and have triggered further landslides in already inaccessible and high altitude areas. The official death toll still stands at about 40,000, but there are unsubstantiated reports of increases coming from the field.
The announcement by the Government on plans to open the Line of Control to allow people on the other side to join in relief efforts is welcomed by the humanitarian community. Such measures demonstrate Pakistan's commitment to facilitate the delivery of aid to the most needy before the winter comes.
Although relief is reaching earthquake survivors now, particularly in the distribution hubs of Muzaffarabad, Mansehra and Balakot, it is clear that communities in the most inaccessible locations have yet to be reached.
Key concerns of the humanitarian community include:
-- Lack of adequate temporary shelter for the millions of homeless remains the priority in relief efforts. The International Organization for Migration, the United Nations agency leading the emergency shelter cluster, reports that creative solutions are now being worked on, rather than continuing to focus on tents.
-- The communities, especially the injured among them, who remain isolated in the remote valley areas. Exact numbers remain unknown, and the humanitarian community is now focusing on determining how many people still need to be reached by emergency assistance.
-- The plight of the vast number of children who are thought to be among those without shelter; they are more vulnerable to hypothermia, hunger and disease.
-- Whether the full extent of this calamity and its impact on Pakistan has been fully grasped by the international donor community.
However, today has also seen more positive developments on the ground.
Many people have been observed coming down from the mountains to fetch supplies before returning to their settlements. Those able to move will be encouraged to reach distribution hubs, reducing the number of those who, unable to move from higher ground, will still need to be reached directly.
Fewer trauma cases have reportedly been arriving at field hospitals in the region over the last two days; the need now is for better post-operative care, and shelter is once again the key priority here. Space near the hospital at Abbotabad has been identified as a potential helipad, which would also help speed up provision of assistance to injured survivors.
Full staff deployment to the three already functioning humanitarian hubs managed by the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team (Muzaffarabad, Mansehra and Bagh) is taking place today, further strengthening field coordination among all national and international relief actors. From Friday, a Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator and additional staff will be based in Muzaffarabad and Mansehra.
Detailed information on the humanitarian relief operation is available on www.un.org.pk , and daily situation reports can be accessed at www.reliefweb.int . For further information, please contact Amanda Pitt, OCHA-Pakistan: Tel.: +92 (0) 301 532 3985, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org , Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York: Tel.: +1 917 367 5126 (office) or +1 917 892 1679 (mobile), or Elizabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva: Tel.: +41 22 917 2653 (office) or +41 79 473 4570.
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