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UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman visits quake-devastated region

© UNICEF/HQ05-1618/Zaidi
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman meets students at a tent school recently opened on the site of Narole Government Girls High School, near Muzaffarabad. The children are using supplies from UNICEF ‘School-in-a-Box’ kits.

By Sabine Dolan

NEW YORK, USA, 31 October 2005 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman has visited Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province and Pakistan-administered Kashmir to assess first-hand the destruction brought by the 8 October earthquake. Ms. Veneman is the first head of a United Nations humanitarian agency to visit the area.

“Today I witnessed the extraordinary scale of the devastation and the breadth of human suffering during this short visit to the heart of the earthquake zone,” she said. “The impact this has had on the children of this vast and ruggedly beautiful land is of particular concern.”

© UNICEF/HQ05-1621/Zaidi
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman visited the children’s hospital at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS). Some 2,000 children have been brought there for treatment.

Ms. Veneman’s trip served to highlight the ongoing plight of children in the quake-affected areas in the north of the country. UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies have been warning of a second wave of deaths unless more donor assistance arrives soon. Soon the harsh Himalayan winter will set in, putting at risk thousands of lives. Snowfalls may render some supply routes impassable.

“The children and their families cannot wait much longer,” Ms. Veneman said during a press conference at the UN compound in Muzaffarabad, a city hit hard by the quake. "We must do everything we can to ensure their survival. They need shelter and care as quickly as possible."

Education a growing priority

As part of its efforts, UNICEF, along with groups like International Medical Corps (IMC), Oxfam, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)  and the World Food Programme (WFP), is working to provide clean water, sanitation, food, shelter and adequate health care for the growing numbers of children and families arriving in relief camps after arduous journeys down from the mountains.

© UNICEF/HQ05-1620/Zaidi
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman visits the Jalalabad camp near Muzaffarabad, a settlement where 2,500 people made homeless by the quake – half of them children – have sought refuge in a motley assortment of tents and makeshift shelters.

A growing priority is the reconstruction of the educational system. “We are just seeing this week children go back to school for the first time,” said Ms. Veneman.  “It was very moving to go to a place [Narole Girls’ High School in Muzzafarabad] where 84 girls died in their school, and six teachers including the head teacher – and they had just begun school again that week.”

“Emergency education has to be geared up,” she added, “so that children get the chance they deserve and a hope of a better life.” UNICEF is sending a total of 1,740 school-in-a-box kits to benefit nearly 140,000 children affected by the earthquake. Some 100,000 exercise books are also on the way to Pakistan.







30 October 2005:
Day 1: UNICEF New York correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman’s visit to the quake zone in northern Pakistan.

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31 October 2005:
Day 2: UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman visits children being treated for quake-related injuries in Pakistan.

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