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Switzerland doubles aid to Pakistan

Switzerland is increasing its efforts to help victims to pick up the pieces

(Keystone)

Switzerland has doubled its financial aid to earthquake-stricken Pakistan to SFr4 million ($3.1 million) and is also sending more emergency supplies.

However, distributing the materials as quickly as possible before winter sets in remains the largest obstacle to relief efforts, says the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Toni Frisch, head of the SDC's humanitarian-aid section, said getting help to victims was proving to be a logistical nightmare.

Some villages could only be reached by helicopter or on foot, and mules were helping to deliver some supplies.

He added that the race was on to provide emergency shelter to the millions of people left homeless after the earthquake on October 8 before the arrival of winter.

Speaking to Swiss radio, Frisch said that Switzerland was committed in the long run to helping reconstruction efforts in the affected region.

Mercy flights

On Tuesday a cargo plane laden with tents, ovens – to help people warm themselves and to cook food - and other goods left Geneva airport for Pakistan.

Another plane is due to leave Switzerland on Friday with more supplies.

In a related development, the Swiss Red Cross and the Catholic charity Caritas announced they were doubling their financial contribution towards the earthquake victims.

The Red Cross, which is providing SFr2.2 million in aid, is sending emergency tents, woollen blankets and household items to the South Asian country.

Last week Switzerland flew in a first consignment of tents, woollen blankets and medical kits to the stricken areas.

Donor conference

For its part, the United Nations has invited donor countries to a conference in the Swiss city of Geneva next Monday.

So far the international body has received $50 million in pledges for emergency aid, a UN spokeswoman said.

"Aid reaches us very slowly, but we need more funds," said Elisabeth Byrs of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

She said more than $300 million in assistance was needed to support the victims.

At least 54,000 people have been killed and 140,000 others left homeless by the powerful tremor in Pakistan and India.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The earthquake which struck Pakistan and India on October 8 measured 7.6 on the Richter scale.
It is feared that up to 80,000 people may have been killed in the catastrophe, mostly in Pakistan.
The United Nations estimates that up to $300 million is required in the quake's aftermath to pick up the pieces.

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