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South Asia earthquake: Delivering supplies means saving lives

© UNICEF/HQ05-1429/Pirozzi
An injured boy, his head and arm wrapped in bandages, shares a cot with another earthquake survivor, at a temporary medical facility in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan. The city of half a million was almost completely destroyed in the quake.

By Maya Dollarhide

NEW YORK, 10 October 2005 – When the deadly earthquake struck South Asia on 8 October, emergency supplies were pre-positioned in UNICEF’s warehouses in Karachi and Peshawar, Pakistan. The supplies were immediately loaded onto trucks bound for Mansehra, located in an especially hard-hit area.

The two-to-three day drive to Mansehra is not easy. The supply trucks are traversing roads slick with mud, the product of heavy rains, and are expected to arrive today. UNICEF staff are waiting there to divide the supplies into shipments destined for other affected communities and arrange final delivery to those in need.

“Mansehra will be the new hub for the supply delivery,” said UNICEF’s Julia Spry-Leverton in an interview from Pakistan. “UNICEF has been loaned two government helicopters and they create an air bridge to get supplies to those in need.

“When supply warehouses in Peshawar fill up [with additional incoming supplies], we can use the helicopters to pick up the materials, get them to Mansehra and then move them into remote areas,” she said.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2005/Imran
Trucks being loaded at UNICEF’s warehouse in Karachi with emergency supplies destined for earthquake-devastated areas of Pakistan.

Temperatures dropping

In an emergency, saving time means saving lives. The loan of the government helicopters will cut the two-to three-day truck journey down to a matter of hours. Moreover, some roads are closed and mudslides are a concern, making air transport all the more essential.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, the helicopters will be making supply deliveries into rural areas, where children and their families are waiting desperately for aid. 

Among the supplies are 300,000 Aquatabs (water purification tablets), 375 cartons of nutritional biscuits, 500 tents, 12,000 rolls of tarpaulin, 10,000 blankets and 12,000 sweaters of associated sizes.

Tens of thousands of children and families, their homes badly damaged or destroyed, are currently surviving outside exposed to the elements.

“The temperatures here are dropping every night,” said Spry-Leverton. “We have to move fast and get blankets to the children, to keep them warm. They are exposed to deteriorating weather and living near snow-filled mountains. A bitter wind has recently risen, and the weather is unseasonably cold.”




10 October 2005:
Dan Toole, Director of UNICEF's Office of Emergency Programmes, talks about the response to the earthquake.

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10 October 2005:
UNICEF Health Officer Dr. Tamur Mueenuddin describes the situation for children and their families in Mansehra, Pakistan and the surrounding villages after the earthquake.
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