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UN Says Worst is Over for Pakistan Quake Survivors


The United Nations cajoled, hectored and begged the world for more aid to prevent millions of survivors of last year's Pakistan earthquake from dying from exposure this winter. Now the U.N. says the fight has been won.

It has been five months since last October's massive earthquake devastated large parts of northern Pakistan.

In less than a minute, the 7.6 magnitude quake killed more than 70,000 and people and left an estimated three million others homeless.

For the survivors, concern quickly focused on the approaching winter. Aid workers warned that the freezing Himalayan conditions could cause a second, catastrophic loss of life.

United Nations official issued repeated warnings of impending disaster, and calls to the international community for more aid.

In a press conference here Wednesday, the U.N. announced that the worst is now over, and the race to prevent a second humanitarian crisis has been won.

"We think the winter race has been won, as it were. Spring is upon us; we see the green shoots of recovery, things are happening, the sun is shining. Winter is starting to dissipate," said U.N. Deputy Humanitarian Aid Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick.

He told reporters the international relief effort is, rightly, being heralded as a model for success.

International donors have pledged more than $6 billion for Pakistan's short- and medium-term recovery projects.

Humanitarian aid agencies worked closely with the local government and military to ensure the quake's most vulnerable survivors received adequate care and attention.

The United States, which pledged more than half a billion dollars, also provided dozens of military helicopters to ferry emergency supplies to isolated communities in the quake zone.

McGoldrick told reporters Wednesday that those emergency programs will now give way to longer-term rehabilitation efforts.

He says the U.N. wants to help shift people out of temporary camps and back to their own communities.

"We have to use this opportunity to support and encourage people back to their places of origin, so they can rebuild their lives," McGoldrick said.

The U.N. has prepared a one-year action plan for recovery and reconstruction in the quake zone, set to begin next month.

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, the U.N.'s special envoy for the earthquake, is due to help launch the new program in a few weeks.