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PRESS CONFERENCE ON SOUTH ASIAN EARTHQUAKE RELIEF

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

14 October 2005

In the last 24 hours, the relief effort for South Asian earthquake victims had improved with countries pledging a total of $50 million, up from the $5 million pledged yesterday, in response to the United Nations Flash Appeal, Hansjoerg Strohmeyer, Chief of Staff to the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, said this afternoon at a Headquarters press conference.

On Tuesday, 11 October, the United Nations launched a Flash Appeal for approximately $272 million for Pakistan, in response to a 7.6 magnitude earthquake on 8 October that caused widespread destruction in the South Asian region and high casualties, especially among children. The Flash Appeal aimed at life-saving and early recovery activities for a six-month emergency phase.

The delivery of aid to victims was improving, he said. Fifty helicopters, including several from the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), were now operating in the affected zone, and more were expected.

New aid was pouring into the region, including more than 15,000 tents, 220,000 blankets and 69,000 plastic sheets. A number of United Nations agencies and NGOs had increased their contributions of material goods, offering medical supplies, water purification technology and sanitation supplies, among other things. In addition, an emergency airlift by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was slated to begin today.

Answering a question about the number of children killed and orphaned by the earthquake, Mr. Strohmeyer said the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was in the process of deploying 10 additional staff members to open four offices in the area precisely for that purpose. “We have more and more reports about the very high and incredible death toll on children, particularly school children. I cannot give you an exact figure… as access increases, we will have more precise figures.”

Concerning the fate of more than 40,000 pregnant women in the affected area (according to a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report), Mr. Strohmeyer said that the World Health Organization (WHO) had deployed medical teams and public health teams to the region, but surgical capacity was one of the primary challenges, and the Pakistanis themselves were calling for a significant increase in field hospitals.

Responding to a question about his statement that the search-and-rescue portion of the mission was all but over, Mr. Strohmeyer said search and rescue realistically took place in the first four to six days. He added that it was not unusual to end that process at this point because it was suspected that most people would have died, if not from the immediate impact of the quake, then from lack of nourishment.

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For information media • not an official record



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