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Red Cross focuses on reaching people in remote areas in Pakistan


Wednesday October 19, 2005

Hundreds of earthquake-affected villages in the remote Neelum valley remain largely inaccessible as Red Cross and Red Crescent aid workers concentrate their efforts on trying to reach valley survivors with vital shelter and aid.

According to Robert Tickner, CEO of Australian Red Cross, tens of thousands of survivors in the valley, situated outside the region's capital Muzaffarabad, are still living out in the open exposed to plummeting temperatures and icy winds.

'Reaching the people of Neelum valley is our urgent priority,' Mr Tickner explained. 'They need tents, blankets, warm clothing, clean water and basic medical assistance before the winter sets in, otherwise many of them will not survive.

'This is truly a race against time. We must do all we can to avoid further deaths resulting from exposure to the elements or lack of medical attention.'

Roads into the Neelum valley have been completely cut-off by landslides. Red Cross is using 7 helicopters in a bid to reach villages placed precariously on the valley's steep walls. However, parts of the valley have already experienced the first snow falls of the season and poor weather often hampers even supply drops.

Despite these considerable logistical challenges, aid is continuing to flow into many of the worst affected regions. The Pakistan Red Crescent and the International Red Cross have already distributed 190 truckloads of relief materials. Also some 4,000 winterised tents have already been handed out, with 36,000 more on the way.

So far 19 cargo flights have reached Islamabad. Pakistan Red Crescent medical teams made up of 55 doctors and paramedics are travelling on foot and by helicopter to very remote areas, going village to village, treating the wounded for fractures, injuries and lacerations.

Red Cross relief distributions to people accessible by road are expected to continue at the rate of 5,000 families a week.

To further support Red Cross operations, Australian Red Cross logistician Mary-Ellen Fitzpatrick (NT) has been redeployed from tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka to Pakistan, while Ian Woolverton (VIC) left Melbourne today for Islamabad. This brings the Australian Red Cross contingent of aid workers in Pakistan to six.

In Australia, the public has continued to support the Red Cross Asia Quake appeal.

'Contributions to the appeal have reached close to $2.5 million as at yesterday,' said Mr Tickner. 'However, the need remains huge. We urgently require long-term support from the public if we are to ensure that those affected receive basic humanitarian aid before the winter sets in.'

To donate to the Asia Earthquake Appeal:

  • Visit www.redcross.org.au to make a secure online donation
  • Call 1800 811 700 toll free
  • Send a cheque to GPO Box 9949 marked 'Asia Earthquake Appeal' in your capital city
Funds raised through the Australian Red Cross Asia Earthquake Appeal will be used for the following activities:
  • to support the relief and rehabilitation activities of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Partners in the affected countries, through the emergency appeal
  • to fund any deployment of specialist aid workers to the countries to assist in the International Red Cross response
  • to support any Australian Red Cross programs of assistance in the affected countries
NOTE: Australian Red Cross will not deduct more than 10% of any donation for an international appeal to cover appeal costs. Should the funds raised exceed the amount required to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of the people in the affected areas, Australian Red Cross will use any excess funds to help people affected by emergencies within the same region of the world.
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