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South Asia earthquake: "We must help people stay close to their homes"

01-11-2005 News Release 05/60

Geneva (ICRC) - On arriving in Pakistan today, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Jakob Kellenberger, said that every effort must be made to enable victims of the earthquake to remain in or close to their villages over the winter.

During his stay, Mr Kellenberger will meet with Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, and visit ICRC operations in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

" It is crucial to provide people with food and shelter so that they can survive the winter close to their homes, " said the ICRC president. " Some may have no choice but to move to lower valleys but we must help as many as possible to stay in their villages or nearby. Further disrupting community life would only increase the psychological trauma these people have endured and delay efforts to rebuild their lives. "

    

The ICRC is concentrating on providing shelter and medical assistance in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. It is also distributing food and household supplies, helping to rehabilitate water-supply networks and striving to restore family links. The ICRC president said that the organization's operation in the region, run in cooperation with the Pakistan Red Crescent and supported by other Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, would continue throughout the winter into spring.

" The priority now, " said President Kellenberger " is to save lives and protect livelihoods during the harsh winter months. " ICRC medical teams are treating as many of the injured as they can on the spot, evacuating only the most serious cases by helicopter. Adequate shelter is urgently needed not only for the population but also for what remains of the livestock and the harvest.

" While attending to immediate needs, we must already look ahead to next spring, " said Mr Kellenberg er, " when it should be possible to help people reduce their dependence on outside food deliveries, grow new crops and replenish their herds. Rebuilding their lives is the best way for disaster victims to recover from shock and loss. That can best be accomplished if people are able to remain in their communities. "

 For further information, please contact:  

 Vincent Lusser, ICRC Geneva, tel.: +41 79 217 32 64  

 Leyla Berlemont, ICRC Islamabad, mobile: +92 300 850 81 38 or tel.: +92 51 282 47 80  

 Jessica Barry, ICRC Muzaffarabad, + 92 300 852 87 04  

 or Helena Laatio (ICRC/Finnish Red Cross), satellite phone: +88 2165 420 7201