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Annan Tours Worst-Hit Quake Area of Pakistan

Annan Tours Worst-Hit Quake Area of Pakistan Ahead Of Donors' Conference

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in Pakistan for an international donors' conference that is seeking $5.2 billion for relief and reconstruction after last month's devastating earthquake, today toured the hardest-hit area, declaring that the task at hand is gigantic.

"We often talk of the tsunami, and we did because it killed so many people and affected so many countries," Mr. Annan said on a visit to Thuri Park Camp for survivors with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and their wives, in reference to the disaster which struck a dozen Indian Ocean countries last December.

"But when you look at the terrain here and the logistical challenge that had to be overcome in order to get aid to the people, it is really, really, a gigantic task that we have ahead of us," he added of the mountainous region and looming Himalayan winter that have complicated efforts to help the victims of the quake, which killed some 80,000 people, injured over 100,000 and left up to 3 million homeless.

On the eve of the pledging conference, the Secretary-General and the
President then took a helicopter tour of the worst-affected areas, notably the town of Balakot in the North West Frontier Province, where destroyed houses were clearly visible from the air, as were many makeshift tents.

At a press conference in Islamabad, the capital, Mr. Annan was asked what had most moved him. The bewilderment of two orphans and two women who had lost members of their family, he said, adding that you could see their trauma in their eyes, and their questions: 'Why me? Why did this happen? Where do I go from here? What next?'

Asked in a press encounter at Thuri camp what message he would like to send to the world community, he replied: "I would want to tell them that the situation is serious, the needs are enormous and the people affected can use all the help they can get…

"Tomorrow at the pledging conference I will appeal to the donor community and to the world to respond to the appeal for money for reconstruction, for recovery and to help people recover their livelihood and their jobs," he added.

"The figures seem big – we need $5.2 billion – but when you consider the magnitude of the task it's not very much. And I hope governments and individuals and private organizations, those with capacity will give and give willingly and generously to help our fellow human beings in need."

President Musharraf thanked the entire UN as well as other organizations for the relief aid. "I would like to express my gratitude, from the bottom of my heart, to the Secretary-General and his wife, Mrs. Kofi Annan, for travelling so far to see on the ground what is happening here and to contribute their bit in generating all the support for these earthquake victims," he said. "We are grateful."

Mr. Annan left the camp survivors on a note of hope. "As difficult as the situation seems, I have no doubt that you will overcome, you will rebuild and you will build even better," he declared, paying a special tribute to the women who, he said, often bear a heavy load.

In Islamabad, the Secretary-General had a working lunch with the
President and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, among others, and this evening, together with the Prime Minister, he attended a dinner for heads of delegation attending tomorrow's conference.

In a separate programme in Islamabad, Nane Annan visited the Pakistan
Institute for Medical Sciences where she spoke with children injured in the quake and praised hospital staff for their rapid response and their all-out effort in finding and assisting those in need of medical care.

Meanwhile, the huge airlift by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from Turkey, which started on 19 October, ended last night after its 103rd flight and 1,161st ton of supplies from UNHCR stockpiles in the southern Turkish port of Iskenderun.

But NATO's involvement with UNHCR relief efforts is not ending just because the agency's stocks in Turkey have been exhausted. "NATO has agreed to continue flying our relief supplies from elsewhere, including at the beginning of next week more than 300,000 blankets from Amman, Jordan," spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis said.

UNHCR has so far transported over 290,0000 blankets, 22,000 tents,
33,000 jerry cans, 100,0000 plastic sheets and many tens of thousands of other relief items. It is aiming for a total of 30 properly planned and organized camps housing up to 150,000 people. Twenty of these have been set up so far by the government with technical support from UNHCR and others.

In all, the agency plans to assist up to 500,000 people over six months, including hundreds of thousands who will probably remain in their damaged villages or towns, or in some of the hundreds of spontaneous camps that have sprung up beside roads or next to water sources. It is hoped that by spring, many people will be able return to their places of origin

For its part, the UN World Health Organization
( WHO ) said that, following several hundred diarrhoea cases in Muzaffarabad, quick action was taken to bring in proper water and sanitation, dramatically improving that situation.

© Scoop Media

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