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Pakistan: First cold-related deaths in quake zone

Briefing notes

Pakistan: First cold-related deaths in quake zone

29 November 2005 Also available in:

Winter has officially started in Pakistan with the weekend's rains and snow. The first cold-related deaths have been reported in the quake zone - two children died of pneumonia and a man of hypothermia in the villages of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Many more deaths can be expected as temperatures drop below freezing point especially in the higher elevations.

So far, UNHCR has airlifted over 80,000 blankets and tens of thousands of plastic sheets to quake survivors in remote high-altitude villages in the Allai and Leepa valleys. But bad weather is hampering aid delivery. Helicopters were grounded on Sunday, but airlifts have resumed since Monday. Some roads in the Neelum and Allai valleys have been blocked by snow or landslides. Aid convoys are now driving on slippery roads that could be hit by further mudslides.

On lower elevations, we're preparing the ground for more people forced to leave their homes in the upper valleys because of the bitter cold. In the last two days, the army has reported 100 families per day moving down from the Kaghan valley. Another 700 people are waiting to be transferred from Banna in the Allai valley to camps in Meira and Batagram. The recent camp arrivals have come in bad shape, many of them already weakened by pneumonia. We have been winterizing the camps by providing two plastic sheets per tent and three blankets per person.

Water and sanitation needs will become even more urgent as more people come down to live in planned and spontaneous camps. To prevent congestion and the outbreak of diseases in camps, we now have a total of 16 mobile teams on the ground to fix technical problems related to latrines and waste management, and to sensitise the camp populations on hygiene and sanitation issues.