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Pakistan: Cold Is Now Killing Quake Victims


Pakistan: UN Refugee Agency Reports First Deaths Due To Cold Among Quake Victims

The first cold-related deaths have been reported among Pakistani earthquake survivors - two children who died of pneumonia and a man of hypothermia – and many more can be expected as temperatures drop below freezing point, especially at higher elevations, the United Nations refugee agency warned today.

For weeks UN agencies have predicted a second wave of deaths from the 8 October quake, which killed some 80,000 people, injured as many others and left up to 3 million homeless, if shelter, medicines and other vital supplies were not rushed into hundreds of thousands of victims in remote areas ahead of the harsh Himalayan winter.

So far, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has airlifted over 80,000 blankets and tens of thousands of plastic sheets to survivors in high-altitude villages in the Allai and Leepa valleys. But bad weather is hampering aid delivery. Helicopters were grounded on Sunday although the airlifts have resumed yesterday.

“Some roads in the Neelum and Allai valleys have been blocked by snow or landslides. Aid convoys are now driving on slippery roads that could be hit by further mudslides,” UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva.

“On lower elevations, we're preparing the ground for more people forced to leave their homes in the upper valleys because of the bitter cold. In the last two days, the army has reported 100 families per day moving down from the Kaghan valley,” she added.

“The recent camp arrivals have come in bad shape, many of them already weakened by pneumonia. We have been winterizing the camps by providing two plastic sheets per tent and three blankets per person.”

Overall UNHCR has flown in more than 20 thousand family tents and hundreds of thousands of blankets and other vital supplies.

Water and sanitation needs will become even more urgent as more people come down to live in planned and spontaneous camps. To prevent congestion and the outbreak of diseases in camps, UNHCR now has 16 mobile teams on the ground to fix technical problems related to latrines and waste management, and to sensitize camp populations on hygiene and sanitation issues.

At an international donors' conference in Pakistan on earlier this month, $5.4 billion were pledged, but UN relief officials have warned the vast majority of these pledges are earmarked for long-term recovery even though operations remain in the critical rescue and assistance phase.

“In order to save lives today, these pledges must be fulfilled immediately. Moreover, donors must allow flexibility in use of the funds,” five UN human rights experts said in a joint statement last week.

In an innovative approach, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has joined with important partners in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a strategy that combines financial contributions with hands-on action to help meet the needs of children in devastated areas.

UNICEF agreements with the UAE Red Crescent Society and Dubai Aid City have produced cash donations, technical support, medical teams and regular planeloads with basic relief items.

For example, the UAE Red Crescent Society and UNICEF signed an agreement to manage a donation of $500,000 from the UAE to support UNICEF’s measles immunization campaign, which will be supplemented by a team of Emirati nurses and medical experts to help oversee the vaccination effort on the ground.

The post-quake measles campaign, organized jointly by UNICEF, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and Pakistan’s Ministry of Health, seeks to immunize 4 million children in relief camps and health centres at an estimated cost of $8 million.

“Replicating the tsunami humanitarian response model with relief operations centralized in Dubai has proven highly effective, and the UAE Red Crescent Society has played an important role in protecting children against the spread of disease,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah said yesterday on signing the agreement in Dubai.

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