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PRESS CONFERENCE ON SOUTH ASIA EARTHQUAKE RELIEF EFFORTS

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

24 October 2005

With time running out for aid to reach some of the most devastated regions of Pakistan, a worldwide appeal to help earthquake victims there had met with limited success, United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Margareta Wahlström told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference today.

With only $90 million, of the $311 million appealed for, raised so far, she said she hoped for additional commitments to emerge from a meeting scheduled for Wednesday in Geneva, to raise money, supplies and air transport for the emergency relief operation. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland, and more than 250 participants representing 60 countries were scheduled to attend that meeting.

She said there was only a three-week window to reach all of the earthquake-ravaged villages before snow made many of them inaccessible. During that time, the World Food Programme (WFP) was trying to pre-position enough food to feed 1 million people for the next six months.

“But food is not yet the largest crisis there”, she said. “We are still looking at access and shelter.” More than 60,000 tents were being distributed, and 192,000 were on the way, but that would not be enough to provide shelter for everyone.

Heavy road damage continued to force the entire operation to depend on helicopters, which were running constant missions, she said. A major hub had been set up in Muzaffarabad in recent days, allowing teams to run assessment missions to villages that had been unreachable until now.

“The impressions my colleagues are giving is complete destruction, 95 to 100 per cent destruction of houses”, she said. “People obviously have no shelter there, so the numbers of dead will continue to go up.” Official tallies currently put the number of deaths at nearly 52,000, with 3 million people homeless.

On a positive note, she said there had been no sign of disease outbreak so far, and campaigns to immunize children were under way.

Asked whether everyone in the damaged villages had been reached, she replied that it was impossible to be certain, and that more efforts would be made in that area during the next week.

Asked why the worldwide appeal was yielding such a paltry response, she said one possible issue was that most of the Governments that typically provided donations had exhausted their aid budgets for the year. She said she was hopeful that they would make efforts to provide more assistance.

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For information media • not an official record



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