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PRESS CONFERENCE ON SOUTH ASIA EARTHQUAKE RELIEF EFFORTS

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

17 October 2005

The race against time was growing shorter and shorter as the weather closed in, and the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, and the Pakistani Government faced daunting logistical problems delivering assistance to those in need, correspondents were told this afternoon at a Headquarter press conference by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Kevin Kennedy, OCHA Director of Coordination and Response Division, said much was being done, but the situation remained very grave. He added, “We plan to have a meeting next Monday in Geneva, chaired by Jan Egeland, to further galvanize the international community and step up our efforts to meet the needs in front of us.”

On the current status of relief operations, he said there was a massive effort already under way, involving more than 100 international and national organizations, but 3.3 million people remained homeless. There were some 38,000 dead, and more than 68,000 injured. Estimates suggested there would be many more injured, but the full extent of things would not be known until access was gained to all affected areas. Relief efforts were still very much at the life-saving stage, with an estimated 1 million “severely affected” -- meaning, he said, that they were living without anything.

Noting that shelter remained the first priority, Mr. Kennedy said the current estimate was that approximately 300,000 winterized tents were needed. Up to this point, there had been 20,000 tents delivered and 150,000 were on the way from various donors. An additional 100,000 had been pledged for “further down the pipeline”, but not all of these tents were winterized, and many would need to be worked on when they arrived.

The second main issue, he said, was health. Many people were still left isolated up in the mountains and needed immediate medical assistance, but they were difficult to reach because of the terrain and bad weather conditions. About 12,000 patients had been airlifted out, but large areas remained unvisited. A major health threat problem resulted from sanitation facilities being largely destroyed by the earthquake.

He said some progress had been made on food delivery. The World Food Programme and others had made initial distributions to some 440,000 people. Their target was to deliver food to at least a million earthquake victims.

Asked what information there was on those who had not yet been reached, Mr. Kennedy said that, while they did not have exact numbers, it was certainly well into the hundreds of thousands. With Hurricane Katrina or the Asian tsunami, which were both very challenging relief operations, the access to affected areas by road or by sea was good, but this relief effort was hampered by some of the most difficult terrain in the world. “The access issue in this crisis is also big because it’s spread over a wide area. Unlike the Bam earthquake, which was pretty much in the general areas of Bam, this is very spread out.”

Asked about claims that the international community had made a disappointing response to the United Nations “Flash Appeal”, he said these were still early days, and the figures being reported did not necessarily reflect the amounts pledged by countries, because they were constantly being updated. He added, however, that the humanitarian relief organizations needed more resources than they had today to deal with the scope of the crisis.

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For information media • not an official record



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