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South Asia earthquake: Road clearances allow supplies in, preparations for new exodus from mountains

Briefing notes

South Asia earthquake: Road clearances allow supplies in, preparations for new exodus from mountains

8 November 2005

A month after the South Asia earthquake, we are preparing for a new exodus of people from remote valleys that are just being made accessible as roads are cleared and cold weather approaches. The road from the Kaghan valley to Balakot, for example, was opened this weekend. The restored roads will allow us to send aid to these hard to reach areas, and allow residents to seek assistance elsewhere if they wish. With the onset of cold weather, that second option is a distinct possibility for tens of thousands of people.

UNHCR staff reported seeing a long stream of cars and trucks on the Kaghan valley road over the weekend. The chief administrator of Kaghan valley told UNHCR that we would need to set up four to five more sites just to accommodate people from the area. We are expanding existing camps in and around the town of Balakot, including Bassian and Jaba. On Sunday we also identified three new sites that could host thousands more people if needed.

Thirty trucks are currently being loaded in Islamabad with UNHCR tents, blankets and plastic sheets for these new and expanding camps. In addition, we're sending 500 tents, 5,000 blankets and 2,000 plastic sheets to Bagh, as well as 350 tents, 4,200 blankets, 700 plastic sheets, 350 kitchen sets and 200 jerry cans to Muzaffarabad. UNHCR has so far distributed some 10,000 family tents, along with thousands of plastic sheets, blankets, jerry cans, stoves and other items.

Currently, there are 18 organised camps with a capacity of up to 32,300 people. These camps were established by the Pakistan government, with technical support from UNHCR and its partners. But in addition to the officially organised camps, there are also hundreds of spontaneous settlements where conditions vary widely. Pakistani officials have asked UNHCR to assist the army in trying to ensure better planning in these spontaneous sites, particularly those around Muzaffarabad.

Last night, NATO planes completed the delivery to Pakistan of the initial 860 tonnes of UNHCR aid supplies being provided from our stockpiles in Turkey. It took a total of 68 sorties by participating NATO countries (Turkey, France, UK, USA, Denmark, Italy, Greece), who began the airlift on Oct. 19. NATO and UNHCR have now agreed to continue this unprecedented airlift into a second phase which began last night and which will transfer more than 800 tonnes of additional supplies from our emergency stockpiles in Turkey, Jordan and Denmark. In this second phase, we'll be delivering another 320,000 blankets, 30,000 mattresses, 1,000 family tents and other materials. The first plane in the second phase - and the 69th sortie overall - took off last night from Incirlik air base in Turkey. About 300 tonnes of supplies in the second phase will come from our stocks in Turkey and the government there has generously agreed to provide trucks and personnel to move it from our warehouse in Iskenderun to Incirlik.

Since the 8 October earthquake, UNHCR has delivered over 2,000 tonnes of emergency relief supplies to Pakistan from our stockpiles around the world. In addition to the NATO airbridge, we previously sent 14 planeloads of supplies from our stockpiles in Denmark, Dubai and Jordan, as well as convoys of supplies overland from our warehouses in Afghanistan and Iran. We're also going to be sending 40,000 blankets from India.

Nevertheless, the needs are massive and our resources minimal. According to the government of Pakistan, more than 241,000 tents are needed and 3.8 million blankets - or two per head. Of this huge amount, UNHCR will be providing half a million blankets and over 20,000 family tents from our global stocks. We are continuing to look for additional sources of supplies, but our efforts are still hobbled by a lack of funds.

On Monday, Norway announced a $1 million donation to UNHCR, bringing the total for our quake operation so far to $6.7 million. As OCHA [U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] announced yesterday, however, UNHCR's immediate needs are for $18 million just for this month. That amount would help us to reach a target of 30 camps for up to 150,000 people.