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Urging greater generosity, Annan in Pakistan

Urging greater generosity, Annan arrives in Pakistan for quake donor conference

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Pakistan today for an international donors’ conference on reconstruction after last month’s devastating earthquake, declaring “we need much, much more to help the people in need” as UN staff on the ground stressed the desperate shortfall in required funding.

“I would expect the world, those with capacity, to be generous and to give, and give willingly and I am not just speaking to governments, I am also speaking to the private sector and individuals who have been generous in other situations. I call on all of them to help us here as well,” Mr. Annan said of Saturday’s conference.

“We need more resources, not just for emergency relief, but also for recovery and reconstruction and I hope as we rebuild we are going to rebuild better houses. We are going to do what we tend to call ‘recovery plus.’ Not just build what was there before, but build in a manner that can withstand, God forbid, if another disaster struck.”

Welcoming Mr. Annan at Islamabad airport, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid M. Kasuri said the UN and the Secretary-General “have provided the leadership and stood by Pakistan in these very trying times.”

“We are grateful to the Secretary-General for coming here especially for this conference,” he added.

Asked whether there was still a threat of a second cycle of death from disease, exposure and the logistical difficulties in reaching victims after the quake, which killed more than 86,000 people, injured over 100,000 and left up to 3 million homeless, Mr. Annan noted that the death rate has already been increasing.

“If we had been able to get all the resources, and we didn’t have the logistical challenges that we had, some of the people who died may have been saved but it was not as bad as it could have been,” he said.

On the ground today, UN agencies continued their efforts to bring in relief supplies ahead of the harsh Himalayan winter, when snows are expected to isolate the more remote areas.

In its latest update, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the UN’s $550 million flash appeal was still less than 30 per cent funded, with only 5 per cent of shelter needs and 9 per cent of water and sanitation requirements so far met.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is increasing food rations from 75 kilograms of wheat flour per family per month to 100 kilos but has stressed the very real threat posed by the shortfall in funds to continuing its programme especially if remote villages are to be reached by helicopter.

“It’s certainly no secret that funding is not to a level we requested. That’s going to have an effect as no money means no flights. Of course we’re worried, it’s a real danger,” WFP logistics officer Tony Freeman said. WFP is distributing food by road and by air, and using mules in some areas which remain inaccessible.

“The situation is very bad. Almost everyone is hungry and there is no network of roads or communications. All the shops and bazaars have collapsed and people need food and shelter,” WFP programme officer Kyaw Oo Maung said of the mountainous region where many roads have been cut off by landslides and supplies considerably delayed.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has started a new airlift of vitally needed tents, blankets and cooking equipment with giant British heavy-lift Chinook helicopters. On the first day of the operation yesterday two huge choppers delivered nearly half of the 240 tonnes of aid slated for distribution in the remote Leepa Valley.

Over the next few days UNHCR is providing a total of 2,000 tents, 36,000 blankets, 4,000 plastic sheets, 4,000 kitchen sets and 4,000 jerry cans to the Leepa Valley.

“It is extremely important that we provide shelter and other supplies to these high altitude communities as quickly as possible. Snow is already accumulating on the peaks and soon these areas will be under several metres,” agency emergency coordinator Christine Neveu said.

For its part, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working with the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pakistani Health Ministry to immunize 800,000 children under 15 against measles.

“We can have a major impact on child mortality in this disaster situation, in which children’s immune systems are under stress due to chronic under-nutrition in many cases, and to trauma from the earthquake and the upheavals that have followed,” UNICEF Emergency Coordinator Claudia Hudspeth said.

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