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UN expresses despair over aid

By K J M Verma Islamabad
Last updated on: October 29, 2005 02:12 IST
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Expressing despair over 'slow pace' of international response, the United Nations on Friday warned that time was running out for millions of survivors of the October 8 temblor in Pakistan, who were forced to sleep in bitter cold due to the onset of Himalayan winter.

"It is now or never. There will be no second chance... tomorrow will be too late," UN Resident Coordinator Jan Vandemoortele said.

His comment came even as Pakistan's Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao said the death toll has climbed to 55,000 and is still rising.

The international community on Wednesday pledged almost $580 million for assistance to Pakistan. India has pledged 25 million dollars in addition to three loads of consignments sent already.

Sherpao said over 78,000 people were injured in the earthquake that ravaged an area spreading over 21,000 square kilometre, leaving millions homeless.

"5,000 earthquake refugees have been settled down in tent villages and other places in Islamabad, over 10,000 injured are under treatment in different hospitals of Islamabad and Rawalpindi," he said.

He said in the wake of October 8 earthquake, 55 countries had provided aid to Pakistan for quake-victims and thanked NATO forces for extending their help in relief and rehabilitation efforts.

The UN has already warned that the death toll could double if aid was not immediately available to the thousands scattered in the mountainous areas.

"The pledges are not yet commitment, we need the money now, if not we will be forced to scale down our operations," Vandemoortele warned only after 17 days of operation in over 28,000 sq km of affected area.

He said the UN was fully operational and was already providing medical aid, food and shelter to the quake-affected people, but regretted that only 20 per cent-- US 100 million dollars of the pledges have so far materialised.

"We need up to 250 million US dollars by November, otherwise we will fail in our obligation to save the people from death, disease and hunger," he added.

According to UN estimates tens of thousands injured have not yet been treated and could prove fatal, if medical aid does not reach them within days.

The UN had raised by 67 per cent its original flash appeal of October 11 to US 550 US million dollars, to meet the food, medical and shelter requirements of over two million people for next six months.

According to UN the increase took into account the logistical nightmare confronting the relief workers, since most of the areas were still inaccessible by road and air support was necessary to move aid to the people in next 3-4 weeks before the winters set in.

"The scale, difficulty and complexity of the operation is horrendous," he said adding the UN was operating only through its reserve stocks or even by borrowing.

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K J M Verma Islamabad
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