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Pakistan Quake Victims Mob Hospitals As Freezing Weather Sets In

500,000 Himalaya Quake Survivors Face Winter Without Shelter

With the onset of winter conditions in much of northern Pakistan and hundreds of people pouring daily into medical facilities in the region with cold-related problems, health officials have stressed the urgent need to upgrade the living conditions of quake survivors and provide them with warm shelters and clothing to avert a second wave of deaths.

"It's not a matter of doctors and more supplies, rather the number of acute respiratory infections (ARI) and other cold-related complaints would reduce significantly if people had better living conditions [and] warmer clothing," Rachel Levy, emergency coordinator for the World Health Organization (WHO), said in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Wednesday.

Winter weather in Pakistan's quake zone has tripled the number of people being treated in hospital -- more than 1,000 a day -- seeking help for pneumonia and other cold-related ailments, health officials said.

But the United Nations dismissed local media reports that eight quake survivors had died of the cold, saying it was still aware of only two children amongst the 3.5 million people left homeless by the October 8 disaster who had perished.

The UN's emergency coordinator in Pakistan, Jan Vandemoortele, visited Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, on Wednesday and said he was encouraged by what he had seen, but added that the race against time to help survivors continued.

At least 80,000 people were killed and more than 100,000 injured after the powerful quake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale ripped through Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Pakistani-administered Kashmir. The disaster destroyed around 203,000 dwellings and left another 197,000 housing units uninhabitable, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Bad weather over the past few days has grounded helicopters and significantly hampered the delivery of relief supplies, particularly the shelters kits. However, the IOM has started moving more stuff through the roads, which are still open.

"The agency is using all possible means, from trucks, jeeps, mules and donkeys for further transportation of tents and shelter kits to higher areas," said Darren Boisvert, a spokesman for the IOM in Islamabad.

Under ‘Operation Winter Race,' the IOM has so far distributed over 1,300 shelter kits to more than 10,500 people, with another 6,000 ready for distribution in valleys at high altitudes above 1,500 metres over next two weeks. The kits enable survivors to create their own weather-proof shelters from quake debris and local materials.

[Integrated Regional Information Networks is a project the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]

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Albion Monitor November 30, 2005 (

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