Doctors fanned out Monday to immunize children in Pakistan's quake zone against measles and other diseases ahead of winter's arrival. But they warned they may not have enough money to finish the job, adding to urgent appeals for more relief funds.
A tear rolled down the cheek of 5-year-old Syed Junaid Shah as doctors from UNICEF and the Pakistani Health Ministry vaccinated him against tetanus and measles.
The team had already administered drops for polio that also contained vitamin A to guard against respiratory illnesses that are expected as harsh winter weather descends on the Himalayan region.
"This is important to keep him safe from diseases," said the boy's father, Syed Hussein Shah, 55, seated beside his son on a green flowered mattress in the quake-shattered village of Sawan.
The campaign, launched over the weekend, aims to immunize about 1.2 million children under age 15 in Kashmir and other parts of northern Pakistan over the next two to three weeks.
Yet, project manager Edward Hoekstra warned that US$4 million (Ђ3.4 million), about half the program's budget, was urgently needed to meet operating costs.
Without that, "we will not be able to complete the whole activity, which means large numbers of vulnerable children will remain unprotected," Hoekstra, a senior UNICEF health adviser, told The Associated Press.
Moving on to the nearby town of Chinari, the vaccination team set to work on a line of children seated on plastic stools while potato curry simmered in pots nearby. On a normal day, one team should be able to immunize about 200 children, said Mohammad Ashraf, a Pakistani member of the team.
More than 86,000 people died in the 7.6-magnitude temblor that struck Oct. 8 and hundreds of thousands were living in tent camps where crowding and poor sanitation threaten to cause disease outbreaks.
The weather was clear and sunny on Monday in the regional capital of Muzaffarabad, near the quake's epicenter. Yet snow has already begun falling on mountain villages higher up, where NATO teams have begun working with the Pakistani army to build wood and metal shelters. Also Monday, 16 people from the Indian-controlled side of Kashmir were allowed to cross over from Pakistan, where they had been stranded since the quake. Two people were also allowed to cross in the other direction.
Elsewhere, the sides opened a fourth point along the heavily militarized frontier to exchange aid materials, but there was still no word on when a much-heralded agreement to allow larger-scale reunions between divided families would take effect.
The sides agreed to the breakthrough exchanges last month, but India is concerned that Muslim militants fighting New Delhi's rule in Indian-controlled Kashmir may try sneak across to hit targets.
Relief officials are to gather in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, starting Friday to discuss long-term reconstruction expected to cost about US$5.2 billion (Ђ4.4 billion). The United Nations says it needs US$550 million (Ђ470 million) in emergency aid, but donors have pledged only US$131 million (Ђ112 million) .
"Assistance is not now at a level that we expect," Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said in an interview with CNN on Monday.
Musharraf later met with a delegation of U.S. business leaders led by the top State Department official for public diplomacy, Karen Hughes, thanking them for U.S. assistance in relief operations, particularly the dispatch of almost two dozen helicopters.
"I don't think anyone else could have managed what the U.S. helicopter teams have managed," Musharraf said.
Also addressing the group, Foreign Minister Mian Khursheed Mehmood said America's help showed a positive side to U.S. power to Pakistanis, many of whom opposed U.S.-led military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq and are suspicious of American intentions in Pakistan, reports the AP. I.L.
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