NEW YORK / GENEVA, 8 October 2005 – UNICEF said it is supplying immediate assistance to the government of Pakistan in the wake of Saturday’s massive earthquake, adding that in a region where one-fifth of the population is under age five the death toll among young children could be very high.
Just hours after the quake struck, UNICEF began moving supplies from a Karachi warehouse into the affected region. The supplies include blankets, clothing, tents, emergency medical supplies, food for infants, and water purification tablets. UNICEF will work closely with the Government of Pakistan to determine what additional relief supplies may be needed. UNICEF is standing by to mobilize needed supplies from its operations elsewhere in the region and from its global supply hub in Copenhagen.
Speaking from New York, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said that the agency is preparing for a response to match the scale of the disaster, noting that children make up half the population of the affected areas.
"Children in the affected areas will be vulnerable to hunger, cold, illness, and trauma," Veneman said. "Getting immediate life-saving relief into the region will be our priority for the next hours and days, even as the search and rescue effort goes on."
Teams will be deployed from UNICEF’s Peshawar office in Pakistan’s North West Province early on Sunday morning into the countryside as part of a joint UN response team. A quarter of the population in the area hit by the quake is under the poverty line, with limited resources to cope with disaster.
Omar Abdi, the head of UNICEF's operations in Pakistan, said that UNICEF and WHO are providing logistics support and supplies to the surgical teams sent by the Pakistan Government to care for the most badly injured.
UNICEF said that emotional trauma will be an important concern, especially for children. Many people are likely to be too frightened to sleep in their houses or apartments tonight because of aftershocks. Schools that were not damaged or destroyed will likely remain closed or disrupted for several days but the agency said that returning children to school as soon as possible will be important to their recovery.
UNICEF has staff, supplies, and ongoing operations in each of the three countries affected by the earthquake. In Pakistan, UNICEF focuses on maternal and child health, education, water and sanitation, and protection of children from exploitation. In 2003, UNICEF worked closely with Pakistani authorities after devastating floods hit Sindh province and affected more than 800,000 people.
"This is more sad news in a year that has seen more than enough already," Veneman said. "We are very concerned about children in the affected areas of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. We'll do whatever we can to help them, their families, and their governments."
Attention broadcasters: A studio interview with UNICEF's representative in Pakistan, Omar Abdi, will be available on http://www.thenewsmarket.com/unicef/. APTN and Reuters may also feed the interview.
For further information, please contact:
Gordon Weiss, UNICEF Media, Tel: 212 326 7426 e-mail: email@example.com
Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media Tel: 212 326 7452 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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