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Donors Urged to Speed Up Aid to Pakistan Earthquake Victims

Actress and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, Angelina Jolie, says winter weather threatens thousands of survivors of last month's deadly South Asia earthquake, and she urged international donors to deliver promised aid to Pakistan's victims as quickly as possible.

Bringing a bit of glamour to an otherwise depressing situation, Angelina Jolie told reporters here in the Pakistani capital that winter weather now poses the greatest threat to thousands of families in Pakistan's devastated earthquake zone.

It is a message that has been delivered repeatedly during the past month, by officials up to and including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. But an unusually large number of people crowded into the room Friday to hear Ms. Jolie speak the words.

After touring some of the hardest-hit areas in the high mountain passes of Pakistani Kashmir a day earlier, the movie star and refugee advocate urged international donors to deliver money for Pakistan's recovery effort before winter weather sets in.

"And this is not to say there's not the most amazing aid that's come in and been pledged," she said. "But it's important to stress that the support obviously needs to continue to come, and the pledges that were made need to materialize soon."

Donors pledged $5.8 billion for Pakistan's recovery at a conference here in Islamabad last week. But much of the money is wrapped up in long-term assistance packages and may not materialize for months or even years.

With winter approaching, Ms. Jolie and aid workers say immediate assistance, including shelter from the elements, remains a top priority.

Thousands of earthquake victims have found shelter in temporary camps in the region's major cities. But thousands more remain in high altitude villages, where snow is already beginning to fall.

Kevin Hoedt, the emergency coordinator for the aid agency, Doctor's Without Borders, says time is running out for many of the most remote communities.

"We do know that right up until this moment there are areas that have not yet been covered," said Kevin Hoedt. "There are still areas that have not received tents."

U.N. officials say the cold weather could force some 40,000 people to abandon their mountain homes and seek shelter in already crowded cities in the warmer valleys.

The October 8 earthquake killed an estimated 80,000 people, and left nearly three million without shelter.