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Basic Services Still Lacking After Pakistan Quake

Basic Services Still Lacking For Too Many After Last Year’s Pakistan Quake, Says UN Envoy

New York, Oct 6 2006 7:00PM

A year after an earthquake devastated northern Pakistan, killing more than 73,000 people, the United Nations envoy for the recovery effort said a funding shortfall means too many of the estimated 3.5 million people affected by the quake still lack access to basic services such as clean water, sanitation and housing.

Former United States President George H.W. Bush, who was appointed last December by Secretary-General Kofi Annan as his Special Envoy for the South Asian Earthquake Disaster, told reporters today that a “tremendous relief effort” ensured that the predicted bleak scenarios of last winter did not eventuate for most of the quake's victims.

Nearly 300,000 people have returned home safely after having lived in tents or makeshift housing for six months, he said, praising the response of the Pakistani Government, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and adding that medical care, education services, sanitation and access to water is being expanded across the region.

“However, full scale reconstruction and the full resumption of basic services is going to take years,” Mr. Bush said, and another winter looms with the possibility of particularly harsh living conditions.

A preliminary outlook from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) indicates that the coming winter in Pakistan is likely to be more severe than usual, with chilly temperatures arriving early and lower temperatures than average.

Mr. Bush, who was participating in a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York with Pakistan’s State Minister for Economic Affairs and Statistics, Hina Rabbani Khar, said the UN early recovery plan is $94 million short of its $255 million target.

This money “is critical for bridging the gap from relief to recovery. The sectors that remain under-funded are water and sanitation, housing, and support to vulnerable people.”

Voicing concern about “donor fatigue,” he said he was particularly concerned that some donor countries had not followed through on promises of low-interest loans and immediate funds for reconstruction projects.

“I admit we’ve got a long way to go. I don’t know the exact dollar amount. But I’m not happy that we haven’t done a better job on that.”

The UN Population Fund (<"U">NFPA) said its relief efforts since the quake meant many mothers and children in the affected area now enjoy better access to health care than before the disaster.

The Fund has established 34 pre-fabricated mother and child facilities, where more than 5,000 women have given birth, and also supported 10 mobile clinics.

The World Food Programme (WFP) reported that its large-scale school feeding programme, which targeted 260,000 children in almost 3,000 primary schools, has ensured school attendance rates have not fallen.

As well as the 73,000 killed in Pakistan, another 1,300 people were killed in neighbouring India when the quake, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, struck on 8 October last year.

To mark the anniversary, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched an exhibition in New York of photographs taken by 150 children from the affected region using digital cameras donated by Sony.

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said the project “has given children an opportunity to show us through photographs their experience of the earthquake and the impact it has had on their lives.”

The Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer John Moore, a member of the advisory board which chose the images, said he was astonished by the children’s professionalism given most had never even held a camera before.

“Through the photographs, you can see their desire to return to a normal life, to recover what was lost, while still amidst the rubble of their communities,” he said.

The photographs have been shown online and in exhibitions in Islamabad, Rome, London and Tokyo as well.

UNICEF spokesman Michael Bociurkiw added that the Agency has also pledged to construct 500 earthquake-resistant schools in the affected area over the next two to three years.


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