Annan chides nations for ‘weak’ response to South Asia quake
MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan – U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan chided the international community Friday for a “weak and tardy” response to the South Asia quake that killed more than 87,000 people.Annan said on the eve of a key donors conference that only 30 percent of the money pledged for quake relief had been donated so far. He said that paled in comparison to donations after the Dec. 26 tsunami that devastated 11 nations on the Indian Ocean.”I think there is no doubt that donors’ response has been weak and tardy,” Annan said. “When the tsunami struck at the 10-day point we had 80 percent of the money we needed. In the case of Pakistan at the 10-day point we had 12 percent. Today we have 30 percent.”Annan warned of a “gigantic task” ahead for quake recovery efforts in northern Pakistan, saying the difficulties posed by winter’s onset and the logistics of reaching mountain villages made the Oct. 8 quake disaster comparable to the tsunami, which killed 180,000 people.U.N. agencies have so far received cash donations of only $119 million, with another $40 million in pledges, out of $550 million they have been seeking since last month to finance emergency relief over six months.The Asian Development Bank on Saturday pledged to provide about $1 billion to Pakistan for earthquake relief. It was not immediately clear how much of that money was included in the government’s figure for total pledges.Britain said Friday it would pledge an additional $120 million at Saturday’s donor conference for post-earthquake reconstruction, to be paid out over three years. Britain already has contributed $57 million for disaster relief, the British Embassy said in a statement.The United States has pledged $180 million in aid to Pakistan, about $54 million of which has already been spent, said Kevin Sheridan, spokesman for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Much of that went through international aid agencies outside the U.N. relief effort, he said.USAID chief Andrew Natsios said he would announce long-term support at the conference, but he declined to elaborate Friday.Annan and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf visited families sheltering in tents in the Pakistani Kashmir capital of Muzaffarabad, and Annan said he would renew funding appeals at the donor conference for what he called “one of the largest humanitarian tragedies we’ve had to deal with.””I hope they will get us a better place for the winter because it’s cold here,” said Shaheen Bibi, 30, a mother of four, after Annan gave her money and blankets.Annan said he hoped conference delegates would “give willingly and generously,” but he added that if adequate funds were not raised, he would try to secure them later.”If we do not hit our target tomorrow, we need to keep trying. We have to keep pressing donor governments, the private sector and individuals to try harder. I don’t think we can cross our arms and sit back and relax because we made one attempt and we did not get all that we wanted,” he said.In a joint appeal Friday, six of the world’s largest aid relief organizations said time is fast running out to prevent a second wave of deaths from exposure to the cold, hunger and disease.”We have the chance to save thousands of lives, but the world community must act now,” said Cassandra Nelson, emergency spokeswoman for U.S.-based charity Mercy Corps. “This response needs more money.”Among the most pressing needs, the aid groups said, are warmer shelters to guard against nighttime temperatures that can drop below freezing. About 3 million people lost their homes in the 7.6-magnitude temblor, leaving hundreds of thousands living in flimsy tents and an unknown number with no shelter at all.”More funding is needed immediately to provide basic shelter for tens of thousands of people facing the prospect of a harsh winter without adequate shelter,” said Jack Norman, Catholic Relief Services country representative for Pakistan.Annan said that despite the frustration over the lack of donations, he was impressed by the rare cooperation between aid agencies and militaries, primarily Pakistan’s.”I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen today,” Annan said. “Depressed by the numbers of homes that have been destroyed … but impressed by the level of cooperation and determination.”—Associated Press writers Sadaqat Jan in Islamabad and Munir Ahmad in the Alai Valley contributed to this report.