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More aid for shaken Pakistan

Sun., Nov. 20, 2005

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Following a scolding by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, governments and international development banks more than doubled their promises of aid for Pakistan on Saturday, six weeks after the devastating earthquake here.

A conference representing about 50 countries boosted the world’s promise of aid from the previous $2.4 billion to $5.8 billion after Annan toured earthquake-shattered villages in the Kashmir region and criticized the international community for an “entirely weak” response to the disaster. The pledges met a minimum set jointly by the United Nations and Pakistan’s government as the likely cost of rebuilding the earthquake zone in coming years.

Typically, as little as half of such pledges at emergency donor conferences can actually materialize, said Andrew Macleod, a head of the U.N. emergency center in Pakistan.

And aid workers said it’s unclear whether enough help – notably cash, tents and helicopter transport – actually will reach here in the coming days to save sick earthquake survivors who are camped in the open at high altitudes where snow is falling and nighttime temperatures have dropped as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

With available helicopters flying as much as possible, as much as 10 percent of the earthquake zone still has not been reached by aid teams, the relief group Oxfam said last week.

The 7.6-magnitude quake that struck Oct. 8 killed 86,000 people in Pakistan and another 1,350 in neighboring India. At least 3 million people lost their homes.

The biggest national pledge Saturday was $573 million from Saudi Arabia. The United States nearly tripled its pledge to $510 million. That includes $300 million in cash plus loans and help from U.S. military helicopter and medical units.


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