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UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia visits quake zone, sees progress

© UNICEF Pakistan/2005/ Zaidi
At Kashtra camp in Mansehra, Pakistan, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia Cecilia Lotse, accompanied by Education Officer Fiaz Shah, spends time with a class of primary school boys in a recently established UNICEF tent school.

By Javier Marroquin

MANSEHRA, Pakistan, 18 November 2005 – UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia Cecilia Lotse has visited northern Pakistan, hit hard by the earthquake of 8 October, to review progress of the relief effort. Ms. Lotse went to the Mansehra area in the North West Frontier Province and to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, as well as visiting the Islamabad children’s hospital.

First was a stop in the city of Balakot, which formerly had a population of 40,000. About 90 per cent of the city’s infrastructure was destroyed. Among the ruins, people are clearing away rubble and re-starting shops and market stalls.

Summing up her impressions, Ms. Lotse said: “I’ve had a glimpse of reality today. I see pain and sadness on people’s faces. But there are positive things to report too. UNICEF has a long history of alleviating human suffering. In this disaster I am impressed by our mobilization here and the speed of emergency relief actions.”

Accompanied by UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Omar Abdi and Chief Field Officer Osama Makkawi, Ms. Lotse then went to Kashtra camp, where more than 2,600 displaced people are housed in tents. The crowded camp conditions are especially difficult for rural women, who in Pakistani society would normally be living very secluded lives.

© UNICEF/HQ05-1437/ Pirozzi
A boy with a head injury rests in a camp for earthquake survivors, in the town of Mansehra, Pakistan. He is among the hundreds of sick and injured being treated in the camp.

UN Secretary-General

With Education Officer Fiaz Shah, Ms. Lotse spent time at the UNICEF school and child-friendly learning space with a lively class of primary age boys. The students were doing their lessons, using pencils, workbooks and schoolbags provided by UNICEF.

The school operates out of a tent. Ms. Lotse said that the organization recognizes that tents are far from ideal, but they do provide a way to help children continue learning despite the devastation. “Children can gather here with their teachers - and they can begin to leave their trauma behind,” she said.

A concerted effort from all partners on the ground is still needed to sustain relief operations, and to achieve objectives in health and nutrition, water and sanitation, protection and education for the people affected by the disaster. Ms. Lotse told staff that energy, strength and a sense of mission would be key in responding to the situation.

During her visit to Muzaffarabad, Ms. Lotse joined with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Nane Annan as they visited one of the many tented camps set up in the town.

While in Pakistan, Ms. Lotse also attended the International Donors’ Conference for earthquake emergency relief.

Eric Mullerbeck contributed to this story.



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