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South Asia earthquake update

Briefing notes

South Asia earthquake update

18 November 2005

UNHCR's operation for earthquake victims in Pakistan continues. The NATO-UNHCR airlift from Turkey, which started on October 19, ended last night with the 103rd flight. In all, NATO carried 1,161 tonnes of UNHCR supplies from our stockpiles in Iskenderun, Turkey, flying out of Incirlik airbase to Pakistan. We again thank NATO, the Turkish government and all of those nations who contributed aircraft - Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, France, Greece and Denmark. Although the Turkey part of the airlift has ended, NATO has agreed to continue flying our relief supplies from elsewhere, including at the beginning of next week more than 300,000 blankets from Amman, Jordan. Five NATO-chartered Boeing 747s will carry the blankets to Pakistan.

In addition, a trainload of 40,000 blankets supplied by UNHCR is on its way from India to Pakistan.

Since the devastating earthquake of 8 October, UNHCR has transported over 290,0000 blankets, 22,000 tents, 33,000 jerry cans, 100,0000 plastic sheets and many tens of thousands of other relief items to Pakistan with the help of NATO and UNHCR chartered commercial flights and road convoys.

In Pakistan, meanwhile, the airlift of UNHCR relief supplies by UK Royal Air Force Chinook helicopters to communities in Pakistan's Leepa Valley enters its third and final day today. In the first two days, we distributed a total of 934 tents, 19,230 blankets, 3,900 plastic sheets, 1,640 kitchen sets and 2,400 jerry cans. The supplies helped more than 600 families in an area which had until very recently remained cut off by landslides. In all, we will airlift a total of 240 tonnes of relief items to the Leepa Valley area, which will be distributed on the ground by UNHCR staff and the Pakistani army.

We now have three technical mobile teams on the ground - two THW (German NGO [Technisches Hilfswerk]) teams in and around Mansehra, and one Aga Khan Foundation team in Muzaffarabad. Their objective is to fix technical problems involving water supply, latrines and other infrastructure in camps. There's a lot of work to do in improving conditions in the many camps - both official and spontaneous - that have sprung up in the region and we are enlisting other NGOs to join in the effort.

The Pakistan army estimates that a total of 75,000 people have come down from the upper valleys since the earthquake hit. They include 55,000 from the Allai Valley and 20,000 from the Kaghan Valley. Of these, an estimated 19,000 have so far settled in planned / organised camps. The rest have either moved in with relatives, rented houses in towns like Mansehra and Abbotabad, or moved into spontaneous camps. More arrivals can be expected, so we've got to get the camps in shape.

With our NGO and Pakistani military partners, we are "winterizing" the camps as quickly as possible. People in the camps are being provided with additional relief items, including three blankets, two pieces of plastic sheeting to cover their tents, sleeping bags and mattresses for the most vulnerable, as well as stoves, kerosene, gas, coal, charcoal and wood.

Preparations for a large influx of people coming down from higher elevations are ongoing. The government has asked UNHCR to help with the selection of new sites and the development of additional camps to accommodate additional new arrivals who may decide to leave the high valleys as winter sets in.

UNHCR is preparing for 30 planned camps housing up to 150,000 people, and an overall capacity over six months to assist up to 500,000 beneficiaries. It is hoped that by spring, people will be able return to their places of origin.

Currently, there are 20 organized camps that can hold up to 32,000 people and which were established by the government with technical support from UNHCR and others. In addition there are hundreds of scattered, spontaneous settlements, most of them inhabited by less than fifty families. Often, these makeshift camps are set up near the homes of survivors.