October 26, 2005

UN hikes Pakistan aid request as warnings mount

By Thomas Atkins

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations almost doubled its
emergency aid request for quake-stricken Pakistan to $550
million on Wednesday as aid workers warned that thousands of
survivors faced death from exposure and disease.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the need for funding
was more critical than ever as the Himalayan winter approached,
and urged governments and private individuals to make

"The scale of this tragedy almost defies our darkest
imagination," Annan told representatives from around 60
countries gathered in Geneva for an emergency donors conference
to take stock of rescue efforts following the October 8 quake.

"All the while, the Himalayan winter approaches," he said.
"It is a winter without pity and we can no more slow its onset
than we could stop the onslaught of the quake."

U.N. emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland, who was
spearheading the fund-raising drive, said only 12 percent of
the $550 million had been committed so far and that some U.N.
agencies had already run out of cash, hindering operations.

As a result, many wounded were forced to submit to
emergency amputations of arms and legs due to delayed
evacuations, while hundreds of thousands more faced hunger and
exposure, he said.

"We needed the money yesterday," he told a new conference.
"We are amputating far too many limbs because of delays."

The quake killed at least 54,400 people, wounded around
74,000 and left up to three million people homeless, according
to official estimates.


Salman Shah, financial adviser to Pakistan's prime
minister, said relief efforts depended largely on the ability
to provide shelter from the extreme winters in the mountainous

"If we are not able to move in the winterized shelters, we
will be confronted with a major catastrophe," he said.

Shah urged international organizations to accelerate their
efforts, in part to prevent extremist organizations from
building support among the needy and neglected.

He said they must hurry "so that organizations that may
have their own agendas are not going to exploit the situation."

The requests for more aid come shortly after agency Oxfam
criticized western governments for giving too little, too late.

"The logistical nightmare in Pakistan is bad enough without
having to worry about funding shortfalls as well," said Oxfam's
Policy Director Phil Bloomer in a statement.

"Governments meeting in Geneva today must put their hands
in their pockets and pay their fair share. The public will be
shocked that so many rich governments have given so little."

The Geneva-based International Federation of Red Cross and
Red Crescent Societies doubled its appeal to $117 million.

"It is clear this is a major humanitarian disaster that
requires the international community to scale up its already
significant and timely response," Federation president Juan
Manuel Suarez del Toro said in a statement.