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Annan appeals for urgent help for Pakistan's quake survivors
Updated: 2005-10-20 09:28

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan made a dramatic appeal for world assistance to Pakistan to prevent a second massive wave of deaths in the wake of the recent devastating earthquake.

Annan told reporters that an estimated three million people were homeless with no blankets or tents to protect them from the merciless Himalayan winter.

"That means a second, massive wave of death will happen if we do not step up our efforts now," he added.

He also said he would attend a UN-sponsored emergency donors' conference in Geneva next week and urged governments and other organizations to attend at the highest level.

"I expect results," he pleaded. "There are no excuses. If we are to show ourselves worthy of calling ourselves members of humankind, we must rise to this challenge."

"What is needed is an immediate and exceptional escalation of the global relief effort to support the work of the government of Pakistan," Annan said, calling on key donors and organizations such as NATO and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to mobilize assets of member states to assist.

Pakistani soldiers distribute relief goods to earthquake survivors in Bagh city in Pakistani-administered Kashmir October 19, 2005.
Pakistani soldiers distribute relief goods to earthquake survivors in Bagh city in Pakistani-administered Kashmir October 19, 2005.[Reuters]
He underscored the urgent need for helicopters, trucks and heavy lifting equipment, noting that in the most affected areas, all essential infrastructure had been destroyed.

"In terms of logistics, the difficult terrain makes this one of the most challenging relief operations every undertaken," he added.

Annan complained that firm commitments of only 12 percent of the UN flash appeal of 312 million dollars (260 million euros) had been made by donors, while the flash appeal for last December's tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean had been more than 80 percent funded within 10 days of the disaster.

Asked whether this was a sign of possible donors fatigue, he replied: "I hope this picture will change next week when we do the conference in Geneva."

The UN chief also said this latest disaster highlighted the crying need for a UN central revolving fund that would make it possible to initiate relief operations very quickly.

"We have asked for a revolving fund of between 500,000 and one billion dollars. If we had those funds, and we required only 312,000 (dollars), we could have moved very quickly and then replenish the central fund when contributions come in."

The official death toll from the massive October 8 quake in Pakistan stands at 47,723, with UNICEF warning that another 10,000 children could perish from cold, hunger and disease if aid efforts are not urgently stepped up.

"We need up to 450,000 more winterized tents and temporary shelters," Annan said. "We need an estimated two million blankets and sleeping bags. We need tarpaulins, ground sheets and stoves. We need water an sanitation equipment. We need food supplies."

Meanwhile, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned Wednesday that 10,000 more children could die in coming weeks because aid has still not reached parts of quake-hit Pakistan.

UNICEF called for immediate steps to push through more supplies, saying that children would be the first victims in a possible "second wave of deaths" as winter approaches.

Up to 120,000 children remain unreached in mountain areas devastated by the quake, "of whom the agency estimated some 10,000 could die of hunger, hypothermia and disease within the next few weeks," it said in a statement.

"The relief effort is becoming more complex with each passing day," the statement quoted UNICEF executive director Ann Veneman as saying at the agency's global warehouse in Copenhagen.

She said outbreaks of diarrhea had already been reported in stricken areas and there was a "significant threat of disease."

UNICEF called for more helicopters to help reach survivors in isolated mountain areas, where access was difficult even before the quake, which destroyed most roads and paths.

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