BAGH — As the Himalayan winter hits the three million left homeless after the October 8 south Asian earthquake, a vastly underfunded relief effort threatens to end 2005 with another humanitarian disaster. UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Co-ordinator Jan Egeland recently described 2005 as ‘the year of disaster’, as first the Indian Ocean tsunami, the food crisis in Niger, Hurricane Stan, Hurricane Katrina all left destruction and death in their wake. Egeland and his boss UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently launched the 2006 UN Consolidated Appeals for 2006, seeking $$US4.7 billion to alleviate suffering in 26 countries marked by disaster or conflict. “It’s not like we’re asking too much,” Egeland told reporters after the launch of the appeal in New York. “For the equivalent of two cups of coffee per person for the one billion affluent people in the world, we would cover all the needs of 31 million people in a desperate situation for a year.”
BAGH — The drive across Azad Jammu and Kashmir would ordinarily be a compelling experience for any traveller. The 10,000 foot-high Himalayan foothills provide a backdrop of stunning beauty. Pine trees cover the rocky slopes, and along the horizon, the snow-peaks of the Karakorum and Himalayas emerge between the lower peaks in this desolate area of northern Pakistan. But these snow-peaks are a harbinger of a different reality for northern Pakistan. What United Nations boss Kofi Annan terms ‘the merciless Himalayan winter’ has arrived – with snow already piling on densely-populated higher ground, hundreds of cases of pneumonia, and, children dying. Another harbinger: on Tuesday 6 last, the Pakistani Met Office forecast an even harsher-than-usual winter for Kashmir and the northern areas of the country.