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Pakistan earthquake: ECHO contributes $500,000 to UNICEF response

© UNICEF video
Children who survived the South Asia earthquake on 9 October, in a tented camp near Muzaffarabad. With support from ECHO, UNICEF has been able to distribute emergency supplies amongst survivors.

By Kitty Logan

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan, 9 December 2005 – Pakistan suffered heavy losses when the earthquake struck South-East Asia on 9 October. Over 80,000 people were killed and many more injured. Over 2 million people were left homeless, many of them in inaccessible mountain villages. They now face a bitterly cold winter and it has been a race against time to get supplies to them before the heavy snow arrives.

The Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission – known as ECHO for short – which has been working with UNICEF as part of a special emergency response programme, has so far contributed $500,000 to the effort. Much of this funding has been in the form of charter flights to Pakistan bringing life-saving supplies for children and women. The first few flights to arrive after the disaster – from Denmark, Dubai and India – brought in high energy biscuits, plastic sheeting and blankets. Other goods – such as tents, tarpaulins, blankets, jerry cans, items for water and sanitation, nutritional products, educational materials and winter clothing kits – have since been flown in on commercial flights and distributed amongst those in need.

© UNICEF video
UNICEF Programme Officer Claudia Hudspeth, along with colleagues from the ECHO-funded Emergency Response Team, was deployed to Pakistan soon after the earthquake to support the UNICEF Country Office in the initial stages of their response.

UNICEF Programme Officer in Muzaffarabad Claudia Hudspeth has been coordinating UNICEF’s response close to the epicentre of the earthquake. “The most pressing needs at the moment in terms of people surviving the winter,” she says, “are food and shelter. There are also huge needs to provide healthcare to ensure that if we have disease outbreaks or if children have pneumonia – which is very common here – that we are able to deal with that caseload.”

Hudspeth is part of UNICEF’s Emergency Response Team, which is also funded by ECHO. Based in New York, the team is deployed as necessary around the world. Four team members, specializing in emergency coordination, logistics, human resources and telecommunications were sent to Pakistan soon after the earthquake struck to help the UNICEF Country Office set up facilities in the affected areas.

“Most of my job is direct management and dealing with strategic issues,” says Hudspeth. “For example, issues such as whether populations move [to lower elevations] with the winter coming. Are we going to start seeing population displacements?

© UNICEF video
The UNICEF relief effort for earthquake survivors in Pakistan has received $500,000 from ECHO.

“In the month I’ve been here things have really started to come online. There are lots of areas where we’ve made massive achievements – one is water and sanitation. It’s our biggest challenge of all the programmes.”

Another challenge for UNICEF and partners here has been logistics. Supplies had to be sent through valley roads blocked by landslides. In some places roads have completely crumbled away, and the only way in to high mountain villages was by helicopter.

“It’s really a reflection of the scale of the emergency – we have so many priorities,” Hudspeth explains. “It’s really hard to prioritize when you have high altitude valleys that you need to get stuff in to. You’ve got people living in camps and difficult conditions.

“People are trying to make do with what they have – and what they have is very little,” she continues. “They might have a tent and a few blankets, but they are incredibly resilient and little children are even more resilient than adults, I think.

It’s important for us to get them back to school – and I’ve seen little kids in some of the tented schools – and they are much happier than they were without a school.”

The UNICEF emergency appeal has so far received $60.7 million of the total $92.6 million asked for. More resources are needed to ensure UNICEF can continue providing this vital support in Pakistan.




9 December 2005:
UNICEF Programme Officer in Muzaffarabad Claudia Hudspeth talks about the challenges of getting emergency supplies to quake-ravaged Pakistan.

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