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Published:September 26th, 2006 04:18 EST
Pakistan's Musharraf Expresses Thanks for U.S. Earthquake Relief

Pakistan's Musharraf Expresses Thanks for U.S. Earthquake Relief

By SOP newswire

Washington – Help from the United States, especially Chinook helicopters, was invaluable in conveying relief supplies to devastated areas of Pakistan following a massive October 2005 earthquake, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told an audience in Washington, September 22.

Musharraf, addressed students at George Washington University, expressed his “extreme gratitude to the U.S. government and the people for having supported us in such a big way in the relief operation.”  He described the stages of emergency rescue and relief, operations that involve medical care, provision of food, water and shelter in high elevations where snowfall is heavy. Assistance from the United States to convey aid supplies received from around the world was critical, Musharraf said, particularly the U.S Army’s Chinook helicopters. “The Chinooks of U.S. played the most prominent role. If the Chinooks were not there, we could not have taken all this stuff forward from bases to … the people.” He added that the best field hospital in the affected area was set up by the United States.

On September 21, Musharraf presided at a special awards ceremony at the Embassy of Pakistan to recognize Americans who were part of the relief effort, including United States Agency for International Development (USAID) officials Lisa Chiles and Bill Berger, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Michael A. LeFever and representatives of Citigroup, Xerox, United Parcel Service, General Electric Co., Pfizer Inc. and several other corporate donors. He also presented an “unsung hero” award to two American children, in gratitude for the contributions of American school children to the relief effort. One, 12-year-old Pakistani-American Adnan Ali, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, raised more than $10,000.

The 7.6-magnitude earthquake that hit South Asia on October 8, 2005, killed at least 73,338 people, destroyed entire villages and made nearly 3 million people homeless. The greatest impact was felt in the mountainous Azad Jammu and Kashmir state of Pakistan.

Nearly a year later, the focus remains on reconstruction and rehabilitation, in which USAID continues to play a part. The United States pledged $510 million in humanitarian and reconstruction aid to South Asia. Through local agencies, food, shelter and other relief commodities were provided to survivors, to help them weather the harsh winter. Since then, USAID has been helping people rebuild stronger, earthquake resistant homes by sponsoring workshops in affected districts to train masons and carpenters in safer building techniques. Collapsing buildings cause most earthquake deaths.

USAID sponsors an information campaign to inform residents of the importance of earthquake-safe construction. “We want all residents to rebuild safely and benefit fully from reconstruction support available,” USAID Pakistan Director Jonathan Addleton said when the campaign was announced in Islamabad, Pakistan, in August. “Getting the right information into the hands of all residents who need it will speed along the rebuilding process and improve the quality of rebuilt homes.”

Farmers in the Kaghan, Siran and Konch valleys of the North West Frontier Province and Bagh Tehsil in AJK are expecting a good maize harvest thanks to seeds funded and obtained by USAID working with its partners the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the American Refugee Committee. More than 18,000 farmers who lost crops and equipment in 2005 were assisted.

U.S. reconstruction grants in Pakistan are aimed at rebuilding and improving health and education infrastructure in the earthquake-hit region. Three-year and four-year programs also will expand economic opportunities by repairing farm and livestock equipment, rebuilding shelters and restoring crops. Grants worth $70 million recently were assigned for these purposes to local nongovernmental organizations.

For more information, see U.S. Response to the Earthquake in South Asia.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

Source:DoS