Pakistan quake relief: Bush, UN urge open supply
Former President Bush, UN envoy for Pakistan quake relief, urges open supply lines
After meeting with survivors of the Pakistan earthquake, the United Nations Special Envoy for the South Asian Earthquake Disaster, former U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush, said in Islamabad today that it was crucial to keep supply lines open to deliver relief goods during the harsh winter weather.
Former President Bush spent the night with survivors at a camp in the Pakistani capital, but inclement weather prevented a planned trip by helicopter to Muzzafarabad, one of the most ravaged areas in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
“Prime needs are for the relief efforts to continue to get the survivors through a predicted severe winter and then help people with reconstruction,” said the former president, who concluded his two-day trip today. “You’ve got to admire the spirit of some of these people in the camp. They want to go back to rebuild and I’m very impressed with that,” he added.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed the former president as Special Envoy on 15 December to represent the UN system in the national and international response to the 8 October earthquake that killed more than 73,000 people, injured nearly 70,000 and left millions homeless.
As part of his efforts to keep international attention focused on the plight of victims, Mr. Bush also observed a class held at the camp’s school tent, where UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) school-in-a box kits were being used.
Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) started the second phase of its drive to protect earthquake victims against the dropping temperatures, distributing heaters and kerosene to help people in relief camps stay warm as rain and snow hit the quake-devastated north of Pakistan.
More than 200 families in two camps – Old and New Bhogarmang – received the heating equipment over the weekend from UNHCR, the lead agency for camp management in the UN earthquake relief effort. This week, UNHCR plans to complete this second phase throughout eight camps in the Siran Valley and supplement its earlier distribution of tents, blankets, plastic sheets and mattresses.
And in another development that will help survivors of the natural disaster, the World Food Program (WFP) today welcomed the European Commission’s €6.7 million contribution to its air and logistics operations.
“By supporting WFP’s air and logistics operation, the EC will help to maintain the ongoing delivery of such critical items as food, tents, winter clothing, blankets and tools, to people desperately in need,” said WFP Executive Director James Morris. “The EC contribution is helping to ensure that all windows of opportunity will be used to distribute aid in the weeks to come.”
Air operations have played a vital role in reaching people in remote locations and relief transport is relying increasingly on helicopters as ground conditions deteriorate and landslides bock roads.
WFP is conducting the biggest helicopter operation in its history and in total, a fleet comprised of 14 MI -8, two MI-26 and two KA30 helicopters has been deployed. The operation received additional help from US Chinook and NATO CH53 helicopters.