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ECHO helps get vital supplies to Pakistan’s children

© UNICEF/ HQ05-1720/Ryberg
A man holds his 2-year-old son, Ifrat, and medicine to treat the child at a basic health unit set up in the Thuri Park camp for people displaced by the earthquake, in Muzaffarabad.

By Chris Niles and Kitty Logan

NEW YORK, USA, 15 December 2005 – The first snows have arrived in the mountains of Pakistan and there are fears that thousands who survived October’s earthquake could now be killed by a cold winter.

More than 80,000 people died and two million have been left homeless by the Himalayan quake. UNICEF has distributed more than 23,000 emergency shelter kits. More than 400,000 tents and 1.3 million blankets have been distributed, but it is expected that this winter could take a heavy toll on those whose homes were destroyed.

The Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission – known as ECHO for short – is working with UNICEF to get help to as many as possible before heavy snow closes roads.

ECHO has given UNICEF $500,000 for vital relief. It paid for the first 7 humanitarian flights carrying supplies for children and their families in Pakistan, chartered within days of the earthquake.

In total, sixteen fully laden charter flights have arrived in Pakistan, and additional supplies are arriving on commercial flights.

© UNICEF/ HQ05-1720/Ryberg
A woman holds her baby and the medicine that a doctor has given her for the child, at the Thuri Park camp.

“We are distributing all the goods coming from Islamabad, as far and wide as possible, and afterwards to the valleys by helicopter, by truck, by donkey and by river,” said Jean-Cedric Meeus, UNICEF Logistics Coordinator.

ECHO supported sending a four-person Emergency Response Team to Pakistan to make sure that the supplies were distributed as efficiently as possible.

“The ECHO response was very, very important,’ said Lucia Almi, UNICEF Emergency Project Officer. “It saved many lives.”

ECHO’s support continues to see tangible help delivered to the earthquake victims. But it’s a desperate race against the encroaching winter – and one that is handicapped by inhospitable terrain and the remoteness of many inhabitants.

“The people are not in big villages. You can find one family [in one location], and 3-4 kilometres away, another family. If you bring bulk items you have to split them, so it’s difficult to reach the people,” said Meeus.

The most pressing needs are for food and shelter so that children and their families can survive the winter. Sixteen field hospitals are operational, and nearly half of the camps in Muzaffarabad – the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir – have primary health care facilities, but more medical assistance is vital to prevent outbreaks of disease, especially pneumonia.

UNICEF’s emergency appeal has so far received $60.7 million of the $92.6 million it has asked for. More resources are needed to ensure UNICEF can continue providing vital support to Pakistani children and their families.





15 December 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on the efforts to get help to Pakistan’s earthquake victims.

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