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Swiss to pledge extra cash to earthquake zone

The Pakistani authorities have called for billions of dollars in emergency aid

(Keystone)

The coordinator of Switzerland's development aid programme in Pakistan tells swissinfo Bern will increase its contribution to earthquake relief efforts.

Kaethy Schneitter of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) said Swiss officials would not be going empty handed to Saturday's international donor conference in Islamabad.

But she said she thought it unlikely Pakistan's request for $5.2 billion (SFr6.87 billion) would be met by donor nations.

Schneitter, who visited the northern Pakistan quake zone earlier this week, said there were still no signs of reconstruction, and the race was on to provide adequate shelter for the homeless before the winter snows arrive.

She is one of three Swiss delegates to the donor conference.

swissinfo: Will you be going to the conference with a promise of more cash from Switzerland?

Kaethy Schneitter: Yes, we have looked at our budget and what came in from humanitarian aid [from international donors]. And I think that, together with what has been donated by the people of Switzerland, we will be close to SFr50 million for the next five years.

This will be on top of the SFr10 million in emergency aid [already given]. There will be SFr60 million altogether for emergency assistance, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Part of this money will come from a reallocation of our ongoing development programme, because we have projects in the [earthquake] area that were affected and which cannot proceed.

swissinfo: The United Nations asked for $550 million, but has only received a fraction of that amount. Pakistan now says it needs $5.2 billion. Realistically, how much in extra funds do you expect to come out of the conference?

K.S.: It's very difficult to say. But I think what we can say is that it will not be $5.2 billion.

The north of Pakistan is not as popular [with tourists] as Sri Lanka and Thailand. If you compare this with the tsunami it's clear a lot of people knew this region, whereas almost nobody knows the north of Pakistan.

The other reason is that it's a question of cash at the end of the fiscal year. We are at the end of a year in which we have had a lot of natural disasters.

swissinfo: You've just returned from the earthquake zone. Can you describe what it's like now?

K.S.: Five weeks after the disaster you can still see cities and villages [that are] completely destroyed. There are bulldozers clearing away the rubble. You cannot see any reconstruction. There are more and more tent villages.

What a lot of the relief agencies are doing now is providing people with a shelter kit, including material like plastic sheeting and tools, so that they will be able to reconstruct a shelter for the winter. It's a race against time.

swissinfo: What form of assistance is the SDC concentrating on at the moment?

K.S.: The relief goods have nearly all been distributed. From now until the end of the year [the focus is on] constructing shelters for the people. We are providing these for 10,000 families, or 80,000 people.

Longer term, from March onwards, we are looking at the reconstruction of schools and health centres. There may also be a housing programme. Another important thing is revitalisation of the local economy through providing work opportunities to the people so they can restore their livelihoods.

swissinfo-interview: Morven McLean

Key facts

A powerful earthquake struck the northern Pakistan/Kashmir region on October 8, killing tens of thousands of people in Pakistan and more than 1,000 in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The UN has asked for $550 million to fund emergency relief in Pakistan, but only a fraction of that amount has been received.
Pakistan now says it needs $5.2 billion.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan visited earthquake-hit Kashmir on Friday to highlight the need for further international donations.

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