19 October 2005

Earthquake Survivors Traumatized as Aftershocks Trigger Further Landslides in Remote, High-Altutude Areas of Northern Pakistan

Relief Aid Starts to Arrive in Affected Areas; Huge Need for Winterized Tents as Local Supply Runs Out

ISLAMABAD/GENEVA/NEW YORK, 18 October (OCHA) -- Aftershocks continue to traumatize the survivors of the 8 October earthquake in northern regions of Pakistan, and have triggered further landslides in already remote and high-altitude areas.  Among the millions of people needing immediate shelter and medical assistance are an estimated 1 million children.

Relief supplies are starting to arrive in the affected areas, although it is estimated that around 20 per cent of affected areas have not yet been reached.  There is still a huge need for winterized tents, especially since the local supply is exhausted and some supplies are unsuitable for the terrain and climate.  Over the next three days, daily rapid assessment missions will be flying into areas not yet reached, to evaluate people's needs, particularly in the context of shelter, water/sanitation, nutrition and health.

Temporary shelter measures include tarpaulins and ground sheets, and agencies working against the clock are also requesting blankets, stoves and cooking fuel.  In the last 24 hours, the Government and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have identified several locations for camps for the homeless, in Balakot, Gari Habibullah and Batagram.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, working in several of the relief clusters, suggests that "affected people could be dependent on relief for the next six months, and will be extremely vulnerable.  The relief operation promises to be long and difficult due to the lack of infrastructure, rugged terrain and remote location of many of the affected people".

It is also reported in the field that people are now moving down from the mountains towards centres like Mansehra and Muzafferabad, carrying the injured with them.  Helicopters are evacuating up to 200 injured a day, but field medical facilities are gradually being established, and there is now capacity for up to 300 surgical operations a day in Muzafferabad alone, with international medical teams from countries including France, Turkey and the Russian Federation.  Another 40 teams will be arriving in the field this week.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has sent six mobile units to Muzaffarabad and Mansehra, all including female doctors and nurse-midwives, and serving an average of 250 patients per day.  One of the teams delivered three babies in its first day of operations at a Government-run field hospital.

The major concerns regarding safe drinking water and sanitation facilities have been responded to by many organizations working together in this sector.  Oxfam, DFID, the Pakistan Hikers Association and others have sent supplies of water tanks and jerry cans to Muzaffarabad covering 60,000 people, in addition to materials to build latrines.  Two more mobile treatment plants are destined for Balakot, while some 50,000 purification sets have been given to hikers setting off for remote mountain communities.

The humanitarian community is building even closer links with the Government at senior level, and today saw the first meeting of those leading the relief clusters with their counterparts, contributing to the coordination of this huge operation.

So far commitments and pledges worth $60 million have been made to the United Nations Flash Appeal.  However, this represents only a relatively small percentage of the total requested for this massive relief operation.  The United Nations will hold a high-level meeting in Geneva on 26 October, to be chaired by the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, aimed at mobilizing swift and significant additional financial support for the appeal.

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 pitta@un.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.

* *** *