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Pakistan response scaled up as winter sets in

World Vision scales up response in Pakistan as winter sets in

As the search for survivors is called off in quake-devastated Pakistan, fears are mounting for more than 2.5 million people exposed to the fast approaching, bitter Himalayan winter, already heralded by the increasingly cold nights. World Vision is scaling up its emergency response.

Frequent aftershocks are contributing to the widespread fear of surviving today and the minority of families whose homes are still standing are afraid to sleep inside.

Snow is already falling in the upper reaches and will cover villages by early November, promising snowstorms that are all too familiar to the people of these regions who were trapped by storms and avalanches in the remote, upper Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) in February this year.

At that time World Vision reached families with donkeys and airdrops. Now, the agency is using trucks and working with local partners to distribute quilts, burial cloths and water to families in and around Balakot, Mansehra district, one of the most devastated areas.

"It is very important that these vulnerable people receive shelter quickly. Even without an earthquake things can be very hard, says Fayyaz Gill, World Vision Pakistan Programme Officer for relief in Manserha.

"Generally children in the mountainous areas do not have proper winter clothes, sandals or shoes and their diet consists primarily of only maize and milk. The children are often anaemic because of their low food intake. This period is also very difficult for pregnant women, and the sick and elderly face many problems. The cold weather kills people. You get avalanches, mudslides and blockages and communications get cut. Generally people stockpile food for the winter but there is barely enough," added Gill.

Asked how World Vision will confront the harsh winter period, Peter Gillies, Operations Manager for World Vision Pakistan, says: We are working on a number of fronts. While closely coordinating with other NGOs and the UN we are seeking a drastically increased shipment of winterised tents and are securing effective transportation and distribution.

"Secondly we are working with UNHCR to quickly develop camps with basic services throughout the affected area. We are also discussing fast house-building options with a large housing organisation (Profile) and the Pakistani government," explains Gillies.

While people in the NWFP seem to be hesitant about living in a large tent camp, the international community and the government are looking at various options, like mini-camps located close to survivors' properties.

Mother of four, Gul Nisa, said: "We are worried about what will happen when winter comes. My husband and my mother-in-law are old. We are very frustrated when we think about winter coming." Their mountain village 35km outside Mansehra was totally demolished by the quake. She is currently living under a plastic sheet with her family outside a relative's house.

Winterised tents flown in by World Vision will soon reach families in Mansehra and surrounding districts, affording protection and a semblance of security to families, especially children, who are most vulnerable to plummeting temperatures and ensuing sickness. World Vision is mobilising its partners throughout the world to check all options for more winterised tents.

Water purification tablets, medicines, hygiene kits and other basic household supplies will also be distributed alongside local partners while World Vision establishes Child Friendly Spaces to provide immediate support and relief for children.

ENDS

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