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Pakistan: UN Quake Relief Moves Into Higher Gear

Pakistan: UN Quake Relief Moves Into Higher Gear With Emergency Food Deliveries

United Nations agencies are working round the clock to bring relief to survivors of Saturday’s devastating earthquake in Pakistan, readying an airlift of vitamin-fortified life-saving food for 240,000 victims and sending in convoys of trucks with emergency supplies ranging from blankets to water purification equipment.

Pakistan is the most devastated of the three countries hit by the quake which also struck India and Afghanistan, and Secretary-General Kofi Annan today praised the “rapid and large response” by the international community to the disaster which has claimed 30,000 lives, according to Pakistani Government estimates.

In astatement issued by his spokesman he called on all international actors “to work together to achieve full coordination of all international efforts in support of the national rescue efforts.”

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is mobilizing urgent relief, including a planned airlift to Pakistan of 120 metric tons of high energy biscuits, vital in the first days of a natural disaster when survivors have no means to cook their own food, and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has appealed for an initial $20 million for emergency aid.

“Many of these people have already been hit by huge natural disasters this year. This makes it even more imperative that there are no delays in the international community’s response,” regional WFP director for the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe Amir Abdulla said, noting that the victims had suffered unprecedented rains and snowfall last winter, followed by floods and avalanches in February.

WFP logistics expertise will be essential in identifying the fastest way to provide emergency relief to earthquake survivors, many of whom are located in remote, mountainous areas, and helicopters and trucks will be needed to reach towns and villages cut-off by landslides, the agency said.

With its first trucks are rolling towards the northern Pakistan town of Mansehra, loaded with blankets, children’s clothing, water containers, and plastic tarpaulins, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) appealed for $20 million to provide initial emergency relief to children and families who survived the quake.

“This appeal means immediate action to save children’s lives,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said in New York. “Needed assistance includes medical care, clean water, nutritional food for infants, clothing, and shelter - the things that matter most in the critical few weeks after a disaster like this when children and their families have lost everything.”

Another UNICEF convoy is en route from the Pakistani port city of Karachi with water purification equipment, nutritional food for children, soap, shelter supplies, and children’s boots and sweaters.

The agency is moving in additional staff and supplies from its regional offices and has provided logistics and supplies for frontline Pakistani surgical teams being dropped by helicopter into the most remote areas.

“It’s difficult to access at the best of times, and its people have very few extra resources,” UNICEF chief of operation in Pakistan Omar Abdi said of the mountainous region. “There have been overnight rains and hail which have added to the misery for people sleeping exposed, too afraid to enter whatever shelter remains. This has also created more landslides, further hampering aid efforts.”

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