Image: Indian Kashmiri woman and child do laundry in the snow.
Sajjad Hussain  /  AFP - Getty Images
An Indian Kashmiri woman and child do their washing in Drangyari on Saturday. The Oct. 8 earthquake killed more than 73,000 people in Pakistan and 1,300 in India, and the focus now is on the 3.5 million people facing a harsh winter without enough food or proper housing.
updated 12/4/2005 4:50:38 AM ET 2005-12-04T09:50:38

A measles outbreak in a tent camp for earthquake survivors in Pakistani Kashmir has killed a 10-month-old boy, underscoring the need to immunize children quickly, officials said Sunday.

Health officer Sardar Mahmood said 14 cases of measles have been reported in one small camp in Hattian Bala, a town about 25 miles south of Muzaffarabad where the boy died on Saturday. It was believed to be the first large outbreak of the disease in the quake zone.

“We have promptly taken measures and have enhanced an ongoing immunization campaign with the cooperation of UNICEF,” Mahmood said. “We have sent teams of doctors and paramedics to all the camps and isolated populations to immunize children against measles,” he said.

Measles, a viral disease, is spread by infected droplets produced by sneezing and coughing. It causes fever and rash and is sometimes complicated by ear infections, pneumonia or inflammation of the brain, which can result in convulsions, deafness, mental retardation or death. The disease, which mostly strikes youngsters, can easily be prevented through vaccination.

Doctors struggling with a constant flow of patients in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan’s part of Kashmir, warned that the number of sick could swell as frigid weather sets in.

At least nine deaths have now been blamed on the cold. Aid workers are also concerned about the lack of adequate shelter for the estimated 3.5 million left homeless by the earthquake. Pakistani soldiers are building 5,000 shelters a day.

Appeal for funds
Aid workers say most of the hundreds of thousands of tents that already have been distributed cannot give quake survivors adequate protection against the cold, and sturdier corrugated iron shelters should be used.

The army has constructed about 30,000 such shelters.

The World Food Program chief appealed Saturday for urgent funds to keep an airlift flying to quake-ravaged areas through the winter, calling it “the most difficult” logistical task the U.N. agency has ever faced.

Fearing a second wave of deaths, soldiers and emergency workers have been racing to get food and proper shelter for survivors of the Oct. 8 quake that killed 87,000 people in Pakistan and India. Most of the deaths from the magnitude-7.6 temblor were in Kashmir, the Himalayan territory divided between the two countries but claimed in entirety by both.

The WFP has accepted responsibility for feeding 1.3 million people, while 3 million are getting assistance from the government and 150,000 from the Red Cross.

WFP director James Morris said the agency has enough to keep making aid flights to remote areas through January but needs about $65 million-$70 million to fund the air operation until April 30.

“This has been the most difficult task that WFP” has even been given, Morris told a news conference Saturday.

'It may get worse'
Trucks, donkeys, horses and Himalayan trekkers also have been used to reach the more remote areas.

“We need substantial help, and the helicopters are critical, given the weather, the rugged terrain, and our need to preposition a huge amount of food in places throughout the affected area before the weather gets terrible,” Morris said.

“The worse the conditions become on the ground, the more heavily we will rely on our helicopters. We have never had a crisis where the use of helicopters was so critical.”

Jan Vandemoortele, the U.N.’s top aid coordinator in Pakistan, said Friday that a “colossal job” lies ahead since more people are expected to flow into the camps as the weather worsens.

“We remain on a knife’s edge,” he said. “It may get worse before it gets better.”

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