Press Releases

    27 October 2005

    Secretary-General, Addressing Meeting on Aid to Quake-Affected Communities, Calls for Dramatic Escalation in Funding, Logistics, Manpower

    NEW YORK, 26 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's address to the meeting on assistance to communities affected by the earthquake in South Asia, held in Geneva today, 26 October:

    Let me start by expressing, once again, my deepest condolences to the people and Governments of the countries affected by the earthquake of 8 October.

    The scale of this tragedy almost defies our darkest imagination.  Tens of thousands confirmed dead.  More than 70,000 injured.  All essential infrastructure destroyed in an area covering over 30,000 square kilometres.

    We meet today to prevent a second shock wave of deaths, and to prevent further suffering.

    While no one could have had the power to prevent the earthquake from happening, we do have the power to stop the next wave:  the deaths and despair caused by freezing temperatures and disease, by lack of shelter, food and water.

    For the next few days and weeks, we literally remain in the life-saving phase.

    Those injured are in acute need of medical assistance.  More than 3 million men, women and children are homeless -- too many of them are still sleeping in the open.  Thousands are trapped in towns and villages, cut off by the quake damage from the rest of the world.

    All the while, the Himalayan winter approaches.  As the people of the region know all too well, it is a winter without pity -- and we can no more slow its onset than we could stop the onslaught of the quake.

    That is why this catastrophe has given a new, all too human meaning to the concept of a race against time.  I believe it is a race that can be won and must be won.

    But it will require a dramatic escalation on every front:  more funding, more logistics, more manpower.

    Every dollar, euro or yen committed today will save lives.

    Every helicopter provided will rescue the injured, among them hundreds of children.

    Every shelter erected will save a family from the ravages of winter.

    Every bridge built between Pakistan and India will help reach those in need.

    Let me thank the donors who have stepped forward already, as well as the international organizations that are providing with invaluable support -- from the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement to NATO, the Organization of the Islamic Conference -- as well as more than a hundred NGOs, both national and international.

    Above all, let me thank the people and Government of Pakistan for the excellent cooperation that has characterized the relief effort.  It is crucial that all contributors engage with the joint Government and UN coordination mechanism, to ensure that assistance goes where the needs are greatest.   

    You will hear more details of the response, and of our revised Flash Appeal, from my Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland.

    But one thing should already be clear to all of us:  with the world's supply of winterized tents nearly exhausted, the need for other forms of shelter is acute.  We must do all we can to help the Pakistani people develop a range of solutions.  These range from supporting host families that take in those who have lost their homes, to assisting the erection of temporary settlements through inventive or traditional building techniques.

    At last month's World Summit, Governments called for strengthening the humanitarian responses of the United Nations through more timely and predictable funding.

    They called for developing standby capacities, under UN auspices, for a timely response to humanitarian emergencies.

    And they called for strengthened coordination within the humanitarian community.

    If any event has brought home the vital importance of making all that a reality ­­ including establishing a Global Emergency Fund by next year -- it is surely the earthquake of 8 October 2005.

    Let us rise to that challenge.

    And let us ensure we win this race against time.

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