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Press release

UNICEF chief heads to quake-ravaged Pakistan

Survival and Recovery of Children Still Urgent; Funds Short

GENEVA / NEW YORK, 28 October 2005 – On the eve of a two-day trip to quake-devastated northern Pakistan, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman today expressed concern over the serious risks still facing thousands of children across the remote region.   She also made an urgent appeal for more funding to support the massive relief effort.

“The situation is serious for children, especially those in the most remote areas who may not have been reached with aid, or very little,” Veneman said.  “We can not turn away from these children.  Their health and survival depends on continuing support from around the world.”

Veneman said her trip was intended to bring renewed attention to the children of the quake.  “A tremendous effort has been mounted so far, but more is needed,” she said.  “I want to see the situation up close and draw attention to the critical importance of keeping children alive.”

UNICEF said that in the lower valleys, enough aid has been delivered to enable quake-affected communities to have makeshift shelter.  But the agency said there are still communities not reached by the aid operation, leaving people living under open skies.

Veneman said that it is now believed that children will be dying despite the best efforts of government, aid agencies and local communities. “There simply are not enough resources on the ground to prevent needless deaths,” she said. “In the Tsunami disaster we could say there were no serious outbreaks of life-threatening diseases. In the quake zone, however, with winter fast approaching, we fear that lack of access will be measured by child deaths.”

Ms Veneman will fly to the centre of the quake zone on Sunday, where she will tour communities struggling to recover. She will visit tent encampments, makeshift schools supported by UNICEF, water systems, and other sites in and near Muzaffarabad. 

On Monday she will meet with top officials of the Pakistan government, as well as  with senior figures in the international relief operation.

Veneman emphasized that beyond ongoing life-saving relief, getting children back into a learning environment is a growing priority.  “Children need to be back in the classroom, focusing on positive things,” Veneman said.  “School is a place where children and whole communities can start to rebuild their futures, and we all need to support that.”

Veneman will be available for media interviews during her trip.  Press availabilities will be scheduled in Muzaffarabad and Islamabad. 

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For nearly 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 157 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media / New York: (+1 212) 326 7261
Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media / New York: (+1 212) 326 7452

Updated video on the situation of children in Pakistan and UNICEF’s relief efforts in the quake zone – including video from Veneman’s upcoming visit – are available at: www.thenewsmarket.com/unicef





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