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Pakistan Earthquake Relief: Funding shortage threatens thousands

Pakistan Earthquake Relief: Funding shortage threatens thousands

May 10, 2010

People are pouring out of the earthquake-struck mountains at a rate of at least 1,500 a day, straining an already stretched relief operation, while serious gaps still remain in funding the relief effort, international agency Oxfam is warning.

"The relief machine is now in place, now we must make sure it is fully fuelled to see the people through the winter. Oxfam is calling on countries to make good on their pledges of aid so that humanitarian agencies can help the survivors stay alive this winter," said Oxfam Canada’s Executive Director Robert Fox.

To date, the UN has received only US$119 million (with a further $40 million pledged) of the $550 million it requested for the emergency. That is only a quarter of the funding needed until the end of winter. As a senior UN official on the ground said: "Quite simply, more money means more lives saved."

Despite appeals, the UN World Food Program has only enough supplies to keep feeding 800,000 people till the end of December. The United Nations’ logistical operation – the trucks and helicopters that deliver food, sanitation and shelter items to the devastated communities – could run out of funds this month.

The air operation has only received US$21 million of the US$100m requested. If the UN’s fleet of 19 helicopters is grounded, that will stop the supply of blankets, kitchen sets, stoves, lanterns, tents and sleeping bags to tens of thousands of vulnerable people high in the mountains. Without these supplies, they too will abandon their homes and join the flood of displaced people arriving in the valley towns.

Tragically, as people leave their destroyed houses to seek shelter and aid, they have to abandon or slaughter their livestock. For many, this represents their family savings and their means of earning a living. And with the flooding of the markets, the price of a cow has now fallen from 20,000 rupees ($400) to 5,000 ($100), meaning these families will find it harder to return home after the winter and restart their lives.

"Our water and sanitation teams have already helped 80,000 people in the hundreds of camps for the displaced. We’re on-course to set up 20,000 winterized tents. As this work continues, we must ensure that the delivery of aid by the UN and Pakistani government is properly funded and done according to internationally agreed standards," Fox said.

Oxfam is urging the international community to learn the lessons of this crisis and fund a $1billion UN global emergency fund to enable the UN to respond to humanitarian crises swiftly and effectively without having to wait for donor government funding decisions that often come too little or too late.

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