Children in Pakistan, Afghanistan at risk of death after quake
ISLAMABAD / KABUL: Children in earthquake-hit areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan are facing further deadly threats as extreme conditions and insecurity cut off communities from aid, UNICEF warned on Wednesday.
Over 350 people died and at least 1600 were injured after the 7.5 magnitude tremor – with half of those affected thought to be children.
Heavy rain and snow have been pounding the remote, mountainous areas affected by the earthquake for the past two days. Communication is poor and access difficult due to the tough terrain and security operations.
“We are extremely concerned for the safety and wellbeing of children, who are already the most at risk in any disaster and are now in danger of succumbing to the elements as temperatures plummet,” says Karin Hulshof, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia.
Some of the areas hit by the quake are completely inaccessible, whilst much of the rest of the affected region is difficult to reach even in ordinary circumstances.
“UNICEF in Afghanistan and Pakistan are working with the national governments and are prepared to deliver life-saving supplies to tens of thousands of affected children and their families,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric at Tuesday’s briefing. Citing authorities in Afghanistan, Dujaric said, “74 people have been reported killed, more than 250 people have been injured and some 4,000 houses damaged or destroyed.”
“The UN is ready to provide assistance, if requested by the Government,” he said.
UNICEF warned that health, nutrition, hygiene and education services will now be under exceptional stress, placing more children at risk.
Meanwhile, rescuers raced against time Wednesday to reach cold and hungry survivors of an earthquake that left entire communities in Afghanistan and Pakistan marooned in remote mountainous regions, as the death toll climbed to 370.
Rugged terrain, severed communication lines and an unstable security situation have impeded relief efforts since Monday’s 7.5 magnitude quake ripped through the region, triggering landslides and flattening buildings.
Desperate victims appealed for blankets, warm clothes and food after the quake levelled thousands of homes, forcing many to camp out in the open in freezing weather.
“No one came to help us. We are sitting in open area. There was rain yesterday and no one came to help us,” said Jamil Khan, a 24-year-old quake victim in Shangla, one of the worst-hit districts of Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Pakistan’s confirmed death toll stood at 255 with nearly 1,700 people injured, and authorities warn that the number could spike with many isolated regions still cut off.
People were reported to be running out of food in many remote areas, with children and the elderly helping to dig through piles of rubble for survivors as they waited for aid to arrive. — Agencies