U.N. Head Calls World to Step Up in Pakistan Aid Efforts

Aftershocks continue to shake the hard-hit lands of South Asia as millions of people in Pakistan feel the first snowfall of the fierce Himalayan winter.

Officials raised the death toll to more than 47,700 people while regional authorities estimate figures as high as 79,000, according to The Associated Press. Local authorities reported 37,958 deaths in North West Frontier Province alone, another 40,000 in Kashmir and 1,360 in India.

Relief agencies are still struggling to reach the injured and homeless people in the mountainous regions with aid supplies and to collect monetary support, falling far short of the 312 million dollar appeal made by the United Nations.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called for an "immediate and exceptional escalation of the global relief effort," according to AP, to prevent a "second, massive wave of deaths" during the winter.

With calls to step up aid efforts and the appeal for more supplies to protect the estimated 3 million homeless people from the harsh winter, Lutheran World Relief has partnered with International Medical Corps to provide quilts and medical supplies to the Pakistani survivors. A dire need for tents has also led to LWR's contribution of $35,000 to Action by Churches Together for winterized tents.

Two shipments of around 15,000 quilts are being made through Pakistan Airways' donation of air freight to bring warmth and a touch of care to tens of thousands of people.

Working with local partner agencies equipped with experience and the cultural adaptation to quickly assess the needs of the Pakistanis, LWR's project coordinator for grants and material resources Steve Bruno said in a released statement, "IMC has 20 years experience on the ground in Pakistan. It's a longstanding program, and they have already assessed the needs and have distribution mechanisms in place that will ensure an effective and appropriate distribution."

Relief efforts are being taken up a notch as time pressures agencies to act quickly and rise to face the challenge.

The military reports that 24 new helipads will open today in the Kashmiri mountains to bring aid to the thousands of people who are yet to be reached, and the United Nations is sponsoring an emergency donors' conference in Geneva next week, urging governments and other organizations to attend.