Aid officials warn flow of funds growing thin in Kashmir zone

Warning that the flow of funds is growing thin, international aid officials pleaded Tuesday for more help for the survivors of the massive earthquake that pounded Kashmir and northern Pakistan two months ago. "We have a concern about the continued flow of the contributions," said U.N. humanitarian relief coordinator Jan Vandemoortele, adding that aid has slowed to about just one-quarter of what was coming in last month.

With a harsh winter on the way, he said an additional US$45 million is needed to provide survivors with thick blankets and shelter materials. He said another 2.4 million blankets, 170,000 international standard plastic sheets and 200,000 tarpaulins are needed.

"The immediate challenge for the people is to keep warm," Vandemoortele told a news conference in Islamabad, hours after a 6.7-magnitude quake hit Afghanistan and rattled Pakistan, triggering landslides in the north and blocking a main road that was being cleared.

Vandemoortele said Tuesday's quake didn't cause any damage in Afghanistan or Pakistan. The Oct. 8 earthquake had killed an estimated 87,000 people and left another 3.5 million homeless in northern Pakistan and Kashmir, which is claimed by both Pakistan and India.

Vandemoortele said international aid agencies, volunteers, the Pakistan government and the country's army had been racing against time to reach people living on high land and other quake-affected areas, adding so far the situation there was "good, if not perfect." Concerns have been high that the severe weather ahead could generate another wave of deaths. Officials this week, however, said they believe they have averted the possibility of any epidemics for now. The World Health Organization, the U.N.'s health agency, has promised to stay in Pakistan to help revive the shattered health system, 50 percent of which was destroyed by the quake. WHO has also helped immunize 400,000 children in the area against measles. WHO and UNICEF are contributing 100 prefabricated clinics, and donating 10 ambulances, reports the AP. I.L.

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