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PAKISTAN: World boosts quake response

ISLAMABAD, 12 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - As the scale of the devastation caused by Saturday's South Asian earthquake becomes clearer, many countries and international bodies are increasing their support to help millions of survivors in the region.

The World Bank on Tuesday doubled its initial commitment of US $40 million to Pakistan, hit hardest by the regional tremor that struck northern Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

"We will do whatever it takes to support the longer-term reconstruction but right now what counts is supporting the government of Pakistan in getting some short-term money in so that cash can flow into the affected areas to support temporary shelter, fuel for the imminent winter and household livelihoods," Praful Patel, World Bank vice-president for the South Asia region, said in a statement.

The bank's initial funding of $40 million will be redirected from projects in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The money could be used for cash grants to affected families, to support infrastructure clearance, health needs, getting children back into makeshift schools and making temporary shelters available.

Longer-term reconstruction funding would be determined by a needs assessment and the bank's contribution could be expected to run into hundreds of millions of dollars, Patel maintained.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on an official visit to Central Asia, said on Wednesday Washington would probably increase its assistance to Islamabad to recover from one of the worst disasters in the country's history, while UK Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a $17.5 million increase in Britain's aid to victims of the quake, according to an Associated Press report. The US earlier pledged $50 million, while Britain had initially earmarked $3.5 million.

The United Nations estimates that 4 million people have been affected by the earthquake, which struck Pakistan on Saturday leaving at least 30,000 dead and more than 40,000 injured. The quake made 2.5 million homeless and 1 million were in acute need of help.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and other bodies have warned that communicable diseases, including measles, cholera and diarrhea, could spread quickly among survivors, many of whom were in remote and mountainous areas yet to see relief.

On Tuesday, the UN launched a flash appeal for quake survivors, asking donor countries to give $272 million for food, shelter, water and sanitation.

Among the world's leading industrialised nations, Japan has pledged $20 million in aid, Canada $17 million and Germany $5.2 million.

Kuwait was the top donor with a $100 million pledge as of Tuesday and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced on Wednesday that it would also give $100 million, according to the BBC.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has made an appeal for $54.3 million to support quake victims.

Indonesia delivered 12 mt of food and medical supplies, while South Korea pledged $3 million in aid and supplies.

Bangladesh will contribute relief materials, including dry food, blankets and medicine with a military plane leaving on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesman Zahurul Haque said. Nepal offered $50,000 in aid to Islamabad.

Syria on Wednesday sent a plane to Pakistan carrying 40 mt of medicine, infant formula, tents and blankets for the victims of the earthquake, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported. The agency quoted State Minister Maher Hosami as saying more aid would be flown to Pakistan shortly.

In total, around 30 countries including France, Jordan, China, Russia, Iran, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey and Pakistan's long-time rival, India, have sent relief equipment, doctors, paramedics, tents, blankets, medicines and disaster relief teams. Many have pledged financial assistance as well.

The above article comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004

... Payvand News - 10/13/05 ... --

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