Update of the South Asia Flash Appeal 2005 - Earthquake

26 October 2005

A 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck south Asia on the morning of Saturday 8 October 2005, totally devastating parts of northern Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. The epicentre of the earthquake was located 95 kilometres northeast of the Pakistan capital Islamabad. At the time of this update, the death toll in Pakistan alone stands at over 50,000 with 74,000 injured. Both these numbers are likely to increase. 

Since this appeal was issued on Tuesday 11 October field assessments have been analysed, operations commenced, and the scope and size of this disaster has became clearer: It has quickly become evident that this disaster is much larger than first assumed, hence the requirement to update this Flash Appeal

Following the earthquake, the Pakistani Government immediately mobilized its available resources, mounting massive search, rescue and life-saving operations involving the Pakistani armed forces and thousands of volunteers who rescued many, many people. This was coupled with, and supported by, the relief efforts of the international community, which has concentrated initially on increasing the provision of aid, getting access to more people, as well as facilitating medical evacuation and the provision of camps for people who voluntarily move. Over 100 international organizations, including the United Nations, International Organisations, international Search and Rescue Teams, NGOs, EU, NATO and bilateral partners, immediately poured into the country and hundreds of thousands of metric tonnes of relief items have been donated. Helicopters, airlifts of tents, blankets, foodstuffs and medical teams have been arriving around the clock. Local, regional and global stocks of winterised tents were virtually exhausted within days.   Yet, as each day reveals more acute needs, it is clear that the response provided so far is inadequate. 

Some seventeen days after the earthquake, the unfolding picture reveals levels of human and economic devastation unprecedented in the history of the subcontinent. The entire area of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) is affected: hundreds of towns of villages have been completely wiped out, particularly around Muzaffarabad, Mansehra, Balakot and Batagram.

The affected region, home to a population of 4-5 million, is situated on the foot of the Himalayas, with thousands of villages, individual hamlets and isolated settlements scattered over an area of 28,000 square kilometres. The earthquake destroyed most hospitals, schools, and government buildings and communications and killed many of the government officials needed for the immediate response. 

Access to the people in need is a major concern. The majority of roads and bridges were destroyed, not just blocked, and the subsequent 900 aftershocks have caused numerous landslides. These have blocked remaining roads, cutting all access to some areas. As a result, thousands of people have been cut off in several mountain valleys and have still not been reached. Tens of thousands of injured have not been treated as yet, and their injuries, although treatable, are likely to prove fatal if people are not reached within days. Only a few weeks remain before winter arrives. Thousands of injured, dehydrated and undernourished survivors, sheltering in the fields in makeshift shelters or in the open air in temperatures below zero, are likely to die unless they can be reached before the harsh winter starts

Pakistan and the global community are facing a challenge of colossal proportions. The combination of rapidly deteriorating weather conditions, the extraordinary logistical challenges in reaching hundreds of thousands of people scattered in mountainous areas, and the lack of winterised shelter, all indicate that the worst case scenario: many more thousands dead might become a realty.

The current death toll of about 50,000 could double if aid immediately is not mobilized and delivered to the thousands scattered in the mountainous areas. By 25 October, US$ 68 million had been committed to the UN and its partners and a further US$ 35 million had been pledged. The latest estimates indicate that over 2 million people require life-saving assistance of winterised shelter, medical care, food, water and sanitation facilities, with only a small proportion so far adequately covered. Logistics resources are paramount to ensure delivery of those relief items. Camp establishment and management will also be critical to house the millions of homeless. All these must be treated as equal priorities. It will also be imperative to identify and address the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.

In close coordination with the Government of Pakistan, and based on reports and assessments from the cluster groups and other partners, the Flash Appeal now requires US$ 549,585,941, for six months. 67% of the overall increase in requirements is due to the extraordinary logistical requirements imposed by the inaccessible terrain. The provision of air support is required now to move aid to people in need before winter. In-kind logistical contributions (air support, trucks, etc) put at the disposal of the UN operation will be counted against the appeal, reducing the unmet cash requirements accordingly.  

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26 October 2005

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