Day after new UN appeal for Pakistan food agency alarmed at scant

“It’s quite simple: if we can’t get to them before winter, they are going to die,” Amir Abdulla, UN World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director for the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe said, stressing that a window of hope for survivors was being slammed shut.”More than 50,000 died of injuries from the quake – a further 50,000 could now die of exposure,” he added, calling the next three weeks crucial for getting relief to hundreds of remote villages that will be cut off by the arrival of winter.”Without new donations, we can’t procure food or fly the helicopters. Right now our appeal for emergency food aid is only 16 per cent funded; our appeal for air support is less than 10 per cent funded. We have to quadruple these amounts in the next few days – or face disaster,” he added.At the UN-convened ministerial-level conference in Geneva yesterday, donor nations pledged $580 million, but only $15.8 million for the UN Flash Appeal itself, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland reported. The new pledges brought the total so far to nearly $1.3 billion overall, but much of this consists of bilateral donations straight to Pakistan.”The good news is that we have very good pledges. The bad news for us is that we still have very little concrete commitments to the UN Flash Appeal,” Mr. Egeland told a news conference last night.WFP’s component – food aid and logistical support – makes up one-third of the UN appeal. The agency has tripled its appeal for air support alone to $100 million. It has so far provided food to more than 500,000 survivors of the 8 October quake and is also providing helicopters to transport tents, blankets and medical supplies on behalf of other aid agencies and to bring seriously injured people off the mountains.But with hundreds of thousands of people still cut off by landslides and winter setting in, there are fears that desperately needed aid could come too late for many of them.Increasing the initial $312-million Flash Appeal issued two weeks ago by a further $238 million, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned that tens of thousands in towns and villages had been cut off by quake damage from relief operations while the harsh Himalayan winter approached inexorably.Thousands of injured had not yet been treated and their injuries, although treatable, were likely to prove fatal if they are not reached within days, it said, raising its estimate of people in need of immediate assistance to 1.6 to 2 million from 1 million, and stressing the need for urgent air support to move aid to remote areas before winter.WFP said some 2.3 million people would be needing food aid through winter. Aid workers have reported a growing sense of frustration and anger among the population, who feel that aid has been too slow in reaching them.WFP has been using mules to reach some villages and the Pakistan Army has helped by carrying food supplies on foot. The agency is working to pre-position thousands of tons of food stocks in mobile warehouses within reach of the most remote areas.Over the next six months it aims to transport 500 tons of food a day to distribution points across the earthquake zone. read more

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