Serious gaps remain in earthquake relief funding

Published: 22 November 2005

The first snows fell this weekend in Kashmir. People are pouring out of the earthquake-struck mountains at a rate of at least 1,500 a day, potentially overwhelming an already stretched relief operation in the valleys. But five weeks after the earthquake hit, serious gaps still remain in the funding of the international and Government of Pakistan relief effort, warns aid agency Oxfam International.

The first snows fell this weekend in Kashmir. People are pouring out of the earthquake-struck mountains at a rate of at least 1,500 a day, potentially overwhelming an already stretched relief operation in the valleys.

But five weeks after the earthquake hit, serious gaps still remain in the funding of the international and Government of Pakistan relief effort, warns aid agency Oxfam International.

"The relief machine is now in place, this is the time to 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 alleviate the suffering of the survivors and help them stay alive this winter", said Oxfam's humanitarian co-ordinator for Pakistan, Jane Cocking.

Overall, the UN has only received 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 till 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 Programme has only enough supplies to keep up its current feeding of 800,000 people till the end of December, and not enough delivery trucks. 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. But with the flooding of the markets the price of a cow has now fallen from 20,000 rupees ($400) to 5,000 ($100). These families will find it all the harder to return home after the winter and restart their lives.

Oxfam International is working to help these people. "We and the other agencies now have our systems in place in Pakistan. 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 winterised tents. As this work continues, we must ensure that the delivery of aid by the UN and Pakistani government is properly funded and also done according to the internationally agreed standards, respecting peoples' rights," said Jane Cocking.

Oxfam is urging the international community to learn the lessons of this crisis and many others 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 all too often come too little or too late.

"Once again the lack of a properly resourced UN emergency fund is putting thousands of lives at risk. It is vital that UN member states agree to set up a well-funded UN global emergency fund in order to respond to disasters such as this so that people's lives can be saved immediately. At the same time the UN needs to ensure that money is being spent effectively and that it has its best people working on the ground to respond to this disaster", said Oxfam's Jane Cocking.

Contact Information

For interviews or further information please contact:
In UK:
Clare Rudebeck on +44 (0) 1865 472530 or +44 (0) 7769 887 139
In Pakistan:
Shaista Aziz on +92 300 856 0632 +44 7810 814980,
Alex Renton +92 300 856 9653, or
Loes Visser +92 300 856 8417

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