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Statement by UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman on her visit to quake-ravaged Pakistan

MUZZAFARABAD, Sunday 30th October, 2005 - Ladies and Gentlemen, today I witnessed the extraordinary scale of devastation and the breadth of human suffering during this short visit to the heart of the earthquake zone. The impact this has had on the children of this vast and ruggedly beautiful land is of particular concern.

We have visited the Balakot area and to Muzzafarabad where we have seen massive efforts by so many partners including the affected communities themselves to alleviate immediate suffering.

In the Balakot area we saw how a camp had been laid out by the military in anticipation of the need for village communities for immediate shelter.

UNICEF along with groups like International Medical Corps, Oxfam, UNHCR and WFP is now working to provide clean water, sanitation, food shelter and adequate health care for the growing numbers of people struggling down from the mountains needing assistance.

Here in Muzzafarabad we visited a girl’s government high school at Narole where 84 pupils and 6 teachers died. Out of that wreckage the school is again operating. It is the spirit of the teachers and the students we met there that I will remember for a long time to come.

Enormous challenges remain. There are large numbers of people who have still not been reached. We have a short critical window of time to act before the Himalayan winter sets in.

The children and their families cannot wait much longer. We must do everything we can to ensure their survival. They need shelter and care as quickly as possible without urgent action from us large numbers of children could die immediately. It is estimated that nearly half the victims of the earthquake were children 18 and under. We need urgent large scale support to control disease, malnutrition and to improve water supply and sanitation. Without this children and adults will die of preventable disease – and this is already happening.

We need to protect the children who have survived. Large numbers of them have been severely injured and there are many amputees. They will need special long term care. It will also be very important to work with children and their families now and in the future to help them cope with their stress and shock that has scared so many of the young.

Emergency education has to be geared up so that children get the chance they deserve and hope of a better life and more opportunities are not ended.

More funding is urgently needed to save lives now. We will be here throughout this crisis and after. But this cannot happen without substantial additional investment.

In spite the immensity of this tragedy there is still every reason to hope. I have been impressed by the strength and dignity of the people I have met here. Especially the resilience of the children. We must not let them down.

Thank you for being here today and special thank you to the many officials in the military, civilian and humanitarian fields who have included me in their busy schedules as they endeavor to help those affected by this terrible disaster.

Ladies and gentleman this earthquake was unavoidable but we do not want to see it become an bigger catastrophe for children.





31 October 2005:
UNICEF’s Sabine Dolan reports on UNICEF’s Executive Director Ann M. Veneman’s visit to South Asia’s earthquake devastated region.

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