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Report Confirms High Child Casualty in Pakistan Earthquake

Islamabad, February 7: The findings of a U.N. survey on the current nutritional status of the surviving population  showed that while almost 5 per cent of the population was killed in the hardest hit areas in the last October’s earthquake, children under 5 suffered a disproportionally high toll.

"Babies and infants were the most helpless, and thus the most likely to die," said Omar Abdi, UNICEF's Pakistan representative. "People in these areas have large families, so while some children could be gotten to safety, many simply died."

The survey also show that, as expected, the vast number of people were killed on the day itself, while post-earthquake deaths rapidly tailed off. The UN says that on the whole, a quick reaction from the Pakistan authorities and the international community prevented many more deaths.

The nutrition survey was conducted with the objective to collect information regarding the health and nutrition status of children between 6 and 59 months, as well as their mothers. The results will enable the UN missions, government and non-government organisations in planning health and nutrition interventions for the earthquake-affected population. Four different surveys have been conducted to collect information from representative population from Mansehra & Muzaffarabad communities and NWFP and AJK Camps between November 21 and December 28, 2005.

"The food security situation has improved since the initial rapid assessment and the malnutrition prevalence is within acceptable ranges," said Jan Vandermoortle, the UN Resident Coordinator in Pakistan. "However, there is no scope to relax. Although Pakistan has to date not suffered the ravaging winter of last year, we're not out of the woods yet."

The survey was conducted jointly by UNICEF, the World Food Programme and WHO, in collaboration with the Pakistan Federal Ministry of Health.

Acute malnutrition persists as a major health problem among children under five in both the displaced and resident population in the earthquake affected areas. Although the nutrition situation does not indicate a serious crisis, the results should be viewed in the context of the pre-existing poverty conditions and the aggravating factors such as winter conditions, massive household destruction, displacement, high unemployment and high morbidity.

Effective nutritional interventions will have to take into account chronic as well as recent determinants of malnutrition. UN agencies are focused on maintaining the pace of intervention during the winter to ensure that the affected population has access to adequate food, safe drinking water, appropriate sanitation and hygiene practices at the household level and necessary supplementation until adequate dietary food intake is possible.



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