Maleeha Lodhi: 'Pakistan needs the support of the international community'

From a speech by the High Commissioner of Pakistan, given to an invited audience at the High Commission, London
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The Independent Online

A second tragedy threatens survivors of the devastating earthquake that shattered large swaths of northern Pakistan and Kashmir on 8 October. This tragedy can be averted, but only if the world responds with greater speed, compassion, consistency and generosity than it has displayed so far. Already the earthquake, has left more than 73,000 people dead and more than 120,000 injured; 3.3 million people have been rendered homeless and at least half of these are children. Millions of people are at risk from hunger, infection and exposure to the sub-zero temperature of the harsh Himalayan winter which is closing in.

The UN is calling this the toughest relief operation in history because of the logistical nightmare of ensuring and sustaining relief supplies to survivors in a mountain area spread out over 30,000 square kilometres in a race against time.

This is a catastrophe whose scale and complexity is beyond the capacity of one country to manage on its own. And although Pakistanis are humbled by the magnitude of the unfolding disaster, we are determined to rebuild shattered lives and inspire hope for the 5 million people affected by the calamity. To do this we need the support of the international community. More than 3 million people need support over the next six months merely to survive. Food alone at $1 a day per person would cost $600m for the first six months. Relief requirements in this critical life-saving phase are estimated at more than $2bn (£1.1bn).

President Pervez Musharraf has convened an international conference to be held in Islamabad on 19 November. The UN secretary general Kofi Annan will be attending. This conference will afford an opportunity to the international community to demonstrate its commitment to save lives as well as assist Pakistan in the task of long-term rehabilitation. While Pakistan is grateful for the international assistance received, we hope to see a global response commensurate to the scale of the challenge at this conference. If the world was slow to grasp the gravity and urgency of the humanitarian crisis, it has no excuses now.

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