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Pakistan earthquake operation update

Briefing notes

Pakistan earthquake operation update

25 October 2005

With winter fast approaching and well over a million people reported homeless in quake-stricken Pakistan, UNHCR and its partners are speeding up the delivery and distribution of hundreds of tonnes of tents, blankets and other relief supplies from around the world.

A NATO-UNHCR airlift from Turkey that has so far flown 22 sorties and approximately 250 tonnes of aid to Pakistan, is due to get a boost today when a chartered Boeing 747 cargo jet joins the operation. Most of the flights to date - now averaging between three and six daily - have involved NATO C-130 cargo planes, which carry about 10 tonnes. A 747 jumbo jet can carry 76 tonnes, which will considerably shorten the time it will take to carry the remaining 600 tonnes of UNHCR aid materials in Turkey to Pakistan. This is a race against time and the weather. In all, the NATO-UNHCR airlift, which began on 19 October, will deliver a total of 860 tonnes of supplies from our stockpiles in Iskenderun, Turkey. Another 250 tonnes of relief material remain to be transported from Iskenderun warehouse to Incirlik airbase by trucks supplied by Turkey.

Separately, UNHCR-chartered aircraft have so far delivered 14 planeloads of supplies to Pakistan from our stocks in Copenhagen, Dubai and Jordan. The latest UNHCR flight arrived in Islamabad early this morning from Amman carrying blankets and plastic sheeting, ending the first phase of the airlift of supplies from our stocks in Jordan.

We're now assessing additional needs on the ground in Pakistan and planning for the next phase in which more relief items - either from our warehouses or newly procured - should be shipped to Pakistan. Lack of funds, however, make planning extremely difficult. UNHCR appealed for $22 million for this operation and has so far only received $4 million. We've already spent or committed nearly $7.5 million. If people are to be protected from the onset of winter weather in just a few weeks time, it is absolutely crucial that the funds be provided now.

In Pakistan, UNHCR's five emergency teams deployed to Mansehra, Balakot, Batagram, Bagh and Muzaffarabad are working with our partners to establish temporary camps and rush supplies to quake victims. Temperatures are dropping rapidly and an increasing number of earthquake survivors are being forced daily to leave their mountain villages for lower elevations.

The Pakistan government has asked UNHCR to help set up temporary camps for the displaced as part of the UN team approach. Over the weekend, we sent 1,500 tents, 4,500 blankets, 2,200 plastic sheets, 3,000 jerry cans and 700 kitchen sets from our stocks in Peshawar to heavily affected areas in Balakot, Batagram and Muzaffarabad. More than half of the UNHCR supplies are presently going to Balakot and Batagram, where UNHCR has set up four temporary camps with the military to house displaced people. Our site planners are working closely with the military to make sure that these camps are set up according to basic standards, including fences and security lights to ensure that women and children are protected, and with designated areas for latrines, schools and playgrounds. With the help of NGOs, we will ensure that all services, including healthcare and education, are available.

Bassian camp in Balakot now hosts more than 2,100 people in 400 UNHCR tents. Nearby, Ghari Habibullah camp has 360 UNHCR tents with some 1,500 people. Shamlai camp in Batagram is home to 100 families in 150 tents, while Subjail camp hosts 17 families in 30 UNHCR tents.

In Muzaffarabad the Pakistani army has cleared some of the roads to Neelum and Jhelum valleys, which has allowed us to get 800 tents, 2,400 blankets, 1,600 jerry cans and 800 plastic sheets to spontaneous settlements in the valley.

Yesterday, our Muzaffarabad team visited the town of Hattian Bala, 90 minutes from Muzaffarabad. More than 90,000 people live in and around Hattian Bala and many are in need of urgent assistance. We have identified four sites in the area for small camps.