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South Asia earthquake: president stresses ICRC commitment

07-11-2005 Press Briefing

On his return from a visit to Pakistan-administered Kashmir last week, the ICRC's president, Jakob Kellenberger, has said that the organization will remain committed to helping the victims of the earthquake disaster.

After a week-long visit to ICRC operations in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Mr Kellenberger said he'd been struck by the scale of the destruction but said the ICRC was concentrating now on what could be done to save lives rather than logistical obstacles.

  ©ICRC/F. Clarke/pk-e-00178    
  Muzaffarabad. The ICRC's president, Jakob Kellenbeger, visiting the ICRC's field hospital.02.11.05 
    As he spoke at a press briefing at the ICRC's Geneva headquarters, the ICRC had already delivered more than 700 tonnes of material to the affected areas.
Mr Kellenberger said he'd been happy to be able to visit ICRC operations in remote villages and witness relief and distribution efforts. He paid tribute to the courage and resilience of local populations.
He also emphasized the organization's commitment to helping the victims of the catastrophe through the coming winter and beyond. This would include the eventual opening of an orthopaedic clinic in Muzaffarabad.
He said that Pakistan next year would be the ICRC's second biggest operation after Sudan. It is the biggest ever ICRC operation in the framework of a natural disaster.
" It is clear that if you have the necessary commitment and means you can achieve meaningful action, " said Mr Kellenberger.

 An integrated approach  

He said that the ICRC's integrated assistance approach had already helped more than 50,000 people. It is a comprehensive response that addresses all the needs of victims of a conflict or natural catastrophe.
In this context, it includes the deployment of a fleet of seven helicopters, shortly to be increased to ten, to transport relief materials such as shelter and food into remote villages and then using the empty aircraft to transport the severely injured to the 120-bed ICRC field hospital in Muzaffarabad.
" This ensures that every time a helicopter flies, it is useful, " said the president.
Mobile health units are treating the less seriously hurt on the ground.
Coordination with the Pakistan Red Crescent, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societ ies and participating national societies is also an important element of the operation, he said.
At the end of last week, the ICRC already increased the number of people it aims to support to 200,000 people in place of the 150,000 originally announced. It hopes that as many people as possible can be helped in their own villages, preventing the need for them to leave their homes. See bulletin 21 for the latest report on ICRC activities in the field.

 Helping amputees  

During the press conference, Mr Kellenberger also spoke of his meeting with Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf.
He said that Mr Musharraf approved of ICRC operations until now and expressed his hope that the ICRC would be active not only in the emergency phase of the response but also in the phase of rehabilitation.
During their talks, the ICRC's president said Mr Musharraf was particularly concerned about the number of people who had lost limbs because of the earthquake. Mr Kellenberger said the organization planned to use its considerable experience in the field of orthopaedics by opening a specialized clinic that would complement its existing medical infrastructure in Muzaffarabad.


Questioned about the ICRC's role on the other side of the Line of Control, Mr Kellenberger said the ICRC was playing a considerable role by supporting the Indian Red Cross in its response to the disaster.