December 13, 2005

Pakistan quake aid focus comes down the mountains

By Robert Birsel

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The focus of earthquake relief in
Pakistan's mountains is shifting to nearly two million people
below the snowline now that most at higher altitudes have been
looked after, a U.N. official said on Tuesday.

"The major challenge for the people is to stay warm and to
stay dry," United nations chief coordinator Jan Vandermoortele
said more than two months after the massive earthquake killed
at least 73,000 people and left about three million homeless.

"We think now is the time to focus below the snowline," he
told a news conference hours after a 6.7 magnitude quake in the
Afghan Hindu Kush mountains. There were no immediate reports of

Help in Pakistan went first to people at high altitudes,
especially those above the snowline at 5,000 feet, as the
government and aid agencies rushed to get survivors under
shelter with enough food to get them through a bitter winter.

But about 1.9 million people live below the snowline, not
including several hundred thousand in organised tent camps, and
many of them needed help, Vandermoortele said.

The main focus now was on supplying blankets or quilts,
plastic sheets to cover tents and tarpaulin ground sheets, he

A survey of the quake zone by 210 teams determined that 2.4
million blankets or 1.2 million quilts were needed,
Vandermoortele said.

A total of 170,000 good quality plastic sheets were needed
urgently to cover tents and 200,000 tarpaulins for tent floors,
he said.

The cost of delivering the aid would be about $45 million,
said Vandermoortele, who reiterated an appeal to donors to keep
the relief operation going.

The international community has promised Pakistan more than
$6 billion in aid, but most of that is earmarked for long-term
rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Donors have given only a fraction of the $550 million the
United Nations is seeking for a six-month emergency relief

The emergency operation was costing $50 million to $60
million a month and the amount given this month was only a
fraction of that given in November, Vandermoortele said.

"We have a concern about the continued flow of
contributions," he said.