Still only one-fourth of quake needs covered - U.N.

  • World
  • Tuesday, 01 Nov 2005

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Tuesday that it had received less than a quarter of the $550 million sought for quake victims in Pakistan and that the lack of money could soon hamper efforts to save lives in remote areas. 

Agencies are racing to reach 200,000 people in mountainous parts of Kashmir hit by the Oct 8 quake, which killed more than 57,000 people and injured 79,000. 

A woman, injured during the October 8 earthquake, recuperates at a makeshift hospital in Balakot, Pakistan, November 1, 2005. Pakistan appealed for antibiotics and painkillers on Tuesday as it raised the toll from last month's devasting earthquake to 57,597 killed and nearly 79,000 injured. (REUTERS/Mian Khursheed)

But they warned that helicopters, often the only way to get around, could be grounded within a couple of weeks leaving thousands without the aid they need to face the coming winter. 

In all, only $131 million has been received or pledged towards the U.N. emergency appeal launched two weeks ago, meaning it is 23.9 percent financed at best, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). 

"It is not enough, it is very disappointing," OCHA spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told a news briefing in Geneva. 

Oil-rich Gulf nations, China and Russia were expected to participate more in the U.N.-led emergency operation, not just bilateral aid for reconstruction, according to the spokeswoman. 

"If money is not coming, we won't be able to rent helicopters, because one hour of flight is very expensive. If money doesn't come in, some agencies will have to slow down their programmes," Byrs said. 

It can cost up to $11,000 an hour to rent a large cargo helicopter, and in all about 117 helicopters are currently being used by the Pakistan army, U.N. agencies and NATO, Byrs said. 

The U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP) is struggling to boost its fleet of helicopters to 30 from nine, but has only received about 10 percent of the $100 million needed for the air operation used by all U.N. agencies, according to a spokesman. 

"If we don't get the money there is a real danger that in about two weeks time we'll have to ground these helicopters and despite all the capacity that we have on the ground we won't be able to deliver to all of these mountainous areas," said WFP spokesman Simon Pluess. 

Separately, the WFP has received 24 percent of the $56 million sought for food aid under the U.N. appeal, he added. 

The Rome-based agency last week estimated that 2.3 million people are in need of food rations to survive the bitter Himalayan winter, up from one million covered in the appeal. 

"Our pipelines are practically empty. We have people and logistics there, but we need to have money to purchase food," Pluess said. 

The U.N. refugee agency said its top priority was distribution of winterised tents. 

"This really is a race against time and the weather to make sure those who are in need of tents get them," said spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. 

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