Pakistan: UN working to assist nearly 20,000 quake survicors


Islamabad : United Nations agencies are stepping up efforts to assist some 20,000 people displaced by the deadly earthquake that struck Pakistan’s southwest Baluchistan province Wednesday, and address immediate needs include access to food and water, health services and shelter.

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At least 160 people are believed to have died – and hundreds more injured – in the 6.4 magnitude quake, whose epicentre was located in a mountainous area northeast of Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan.

Those numbers are expected to rise with many people missing and feared buried under the rubble homes that have been damaged or destroyed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is sending two truckloads of essential medicines and supplies for 50,000 people for three months to the most-affected districts of Ziarat and Pishin.

The agency is also flying trauma supplies stored at the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai to treat 400 people into the region. The two affected areas remain accessible for convoys carrying relief supplies and the rural health centre in the town of Kawas in Ziarat is functioning as the referral hospital.

In addition to food, water and essential health services, WHO is also concerned about low immunization coverage in the region, especially for measles and tetanus. The agency and its UN partners are carrying out field assessments in the affected area to obtain a clearer picture of the health needs.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) is plans to provide 700 tons of dry food rations to the affected communities, including wheat flour, pulses, oil and salt for two months.

“We need to move fast, so we are going to start distributing food stocks from our warehouses in Quetta and Peshawar, so we can reach the people who need it most,” said WFP Pakistan Country Director, Wolfgang Herbinger, adding that the agency would be coordinating its response with the Government and other UN agencies.

A spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement in which the UN chief voiced deep sadness and offered his condolences to the families of the quake victims.

“The United Nations stands ready to lend its assistance to efforts to respond to humanitarian needs created by the disaster, including by using existing resources and providing grants from emergency funds, and to mobilize international support for that response, if required,” the statement noted.