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Pakistan: concern over immediate needs, quake aid

Pakistan: with quake aid aimed at long term, UN experts warn of immediate needs

While warmly welcoming Saturday's international donors' conference for Pakistan's recovery from last month's devastating earthquake, a group of United Nations experts warned today that the vast majority of pledges are earmarked for long-term recovery even as operations remain in the critical rescue and assistance phase.

"Even in the face of such generosity, the risk of a second humanitarian disaster looms large," the experts said in a statement on the $5.4 billion pledged. "More lives are at risk today than the 74,000 originally claimed by the earthquakes. Donors must not rest content with the outcome of Saturday's conference.

"In order to save lives today, these pledges must be fulfilled immediately. Moreover, donors must allow flexibility in use of the funds," they added of the quake which beyond the dead and injured left up to 3 million people homeless.

"We remind donors that with winter fast approaching and life-saving resources scarce, tens of thousands of earthquake survivors face death, hunger and disease as well as prolonged displacement and homelessness," they declared.

"Serious outbreaks of acute diarrhoea and disease highlight the need for increased efforts to provide safe water and sanitation in makeshift camps, and to ensure access to health services for vulnerable populations."

The experts signing the statement were: Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Representative on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Walter Kälin; Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, Miloon Kothari; Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Paul Hunt; Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Vernor Muñoz Villalobos; and Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler.

Under international human rights law, States bear the primary responsibility for protecting the human rights of their populations, in particular their access to food, water, health services, education, adequate housing, and other elements necessary for an adequate standard of living and this responsibility extends to natural disasters, they noted.

The Government of Pakistan has acknowledged this obligation but also recognizes the gaps in its capacity to provide immediate relief on the vast scale necessary and therefore has called repeatedly on the international community for assistance.

"Governments which are in a position to do so have a responsibility to provide international assistance and cooperation," they said. "We therefore urgently appeal to all Member States of the United Nations, including the donors who recently convened in Islamabad, to honour their commitments and to ensure that immediate assistance is available to help Pakistan protect the lives and meet the immediate basic humanitarian needs of desperate earthquake survivors."

In its latest update today, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said that with emergency conditions persisting and unlikely to abate before spring, food and shelter are in critical need if those who endured the earthquake are to survive the rapidly approaching winter.

Some 2.3 million people will require food assistance at least through April, according to the latest emergency food security assessment conducted by WFP, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the non-governmental organization (NGO) OXFAM.

Of that total, 2.1 million people are scattered in rural areas, while another 230,000 live in the worst affected towns and this number is growing, WFP added.

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