MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) -More people could die of hunger, cold and injuries in the wake of Pakistan”s earthquake than during it unless rich countries meeting in Geneva come up with more money fast, a top U.N. aid official said on Wednesday.
"The disaster is looming large. We have thousands and thousands of very vulnerable people," U.N. chief aid coordinator Rashid Khalikov said hours before 65 nations were due to meet at the United Nations in Geneva to talk about how to help.
"This disaster may have the number of people who died after the disaster bigger than those killed by the earthquake," he said outside his tent office in the destroyed Pakistani Kashmir capital of Muzzafarabad.
With the known death toll at more than 53,000, relief workers had until the end of November to get hundreds of thousands of people under shelter, treat countless injured who were still untended and provide food to last the harsh winter, he said.
"What these communities will have by December 1 is what they will have to live with," he said amid a chorus of complaints that the world was not acting fast enough to tackle a relief operation more difficult than that after the Indian Ocean tsunami.
"It”s not much time. We basically have four weeks to deliver," he said, complaining that the U.N. appeal for emergency relief had raised only about one-third of the $312 million it sought.
"What we need from donors is that the time between pledge and disbursement should be one hour," Khalikov said.
Aid agency Oxfam was the latest to criticize rich countries for not coming up with more money faster, saying some members of the European Union — which has given money and promises more — had not handed over a penny.
"The logistical nightmare in Pakistan is bad enough without having to worry about funding shortfalls as well," Oxfam Policy Director Phil Bloomer said.
"Governments meeting in Geneva today must put their hands in their pockets and pay their fair share," he said. "The public will be shocked that so many rich governments have given so little."
According to Oxfam, seven rich countries had so far given nothing to the U.N. appeal. These were Belgium, France, Austria, Finland, Greece, Portugal and Spain, it said.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says it will cost more than $5 billion to reconstruct the villages flattened across Pakistani Kashmir and neighboring North West Frontier Province.
But right now, relief workers are racing against time to reach people cut off by the October 8 quake, which also left more than 75,000 people seriously injured, and bad weather on Tuesday was a reminder of how short it is.
"The weather yesterday was very bad — heavy rains and hail storms and strong winds and there was even snow on the higher mountains," International Red Cross spokeswoman Leyla Berlemont said from Pakistani Kashmir”s Neelum Valley.
"They are very, very harsh conditions for the people living without shelter — especially the young people and kids and we still have injured people being treated," she said from Rajkot, a village 7,000 feet up in the hills.
The few roads into the mountains are crumpled, covered by landslides or swept away and some — like that up the Neelum valley — will take weeks to repair, leaving helicopters as the main means of delivering food and shelter.
But the fleet of aid helicopters, although growing, cannot reach them all, or deliver enough.
Up to 3 million people must be sheltered and fed through the winter and more tents are needed than the world can supply in time. Hundreds of thousands of people remain cut off.
Night temperatures are already below freezing in the hills.
Relief officials on the ground say aid is flowing in faster, although it remains insufficient, and more arrives each day.
Talks with India on the acutely sensitive issue of opening the de facto frontier to help relief efforts are scheduled to begin in Islamabad on Saturday. The quake killed 1,300 people in Indian Kashmir