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Earthquake relief effort: Preventing deaths among growing camp populations

© UNICEF video
Children are the ones most vulnerable to cold, poor sanitation and inadequate nutrition.

By Kitty Logan

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan, 30 November 2005 – The threat of a wave of additional deaths among quake survivors in northern Pakistan is becoming more acute with each passing day. Families continue to arrive in relief shelters, fleeing the sudden advance of winter and leaving behind villages damaged weeks ago in the disaster.

It is reported that two children exposed to the winter cold have already died of pneumonia. Sadly, it is always children who are the most vulnerable ones.
The danger arises from the cold, from poor sanitary conditions and from inadequate nutrition. The ingredients for life-threatening illnesses are all to be found in the camps: Makeshift, unsanitary cooking pots lie in the dirt in front of each tent. Poor diets and a lack of clean water have left many weak and vulnerable. 
Clean water and good hygiene are vital to survival

© UNICEF video
Clean water provided by UNICEF is vital to the survival of thousands of children and their families taking shelter in the relief camps.

UNICEF Health Officer Tamur Mueenuddin is witnessing firsthand the growing problem in Muzaffarabad. “The hygienic situation is fairly deplorable, so I would have to say that water and sanitation is our main priority right now,” he said.

“Children are malnourished, viral infections are rampant. They begin often with acute upper respiratory syndrome and sometimes the viral infections will include diarrhoea infections as well.”

The struggle against disease takes place on several fronts. A vital part of the effort is providing clean water. When the October quake destroyed the water system around Muzaffarabad, UNICEF immediately began installing makeshift water tanks in the camps and digging pit latrines.

Only 64 per cent of needed funds received

Education is also essential. Displaced families who had never seen a latrine before are educated about their use. Children are taught to wash their hands with soap and water regularly. These simple things are crucial for maintaining health and preventing more deaths.

Training the Pakistan Army in camp management has also become a UNICEF priority. Now, local military officials regularly survey the camps, with an eye for the water, sanitation, and nutrition needs of the population.

But as the number of displaced people in the camps continues to grow, so do their needs for shelter, water, sanitation, nutrition, and health care. More resources are needed to sustain and expand the relief effort. The UNICEF emergency appeal has currently received only 64 per cent of the total amount needed, which is $93 million.




30 November 2005:
UNICEF’s Kitty Logan reports on the threat of disease facing children and their families in the relief camps of Pakistan’s quake zone.

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