UN relief official heads to quakehit Iran to launch special bid for

The top United Nations relief official is on his way to the quake-devastated Bam area of Iran to help launch a Flash Appeal for humanitarian assistance, a UN spokesman said today.Jan Egeland, who heads the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), will join with Iranian authorities and the Iranian Red Crescent Society on Thursday in asking for the special funds, spokesman Fred Eckhard said.The money will cover urgent needs over the next three months, including temporary shelter, food, water and sanitation as well as health care and schooling.The earthquake, registering 6.3 on the Richter scale, hit the area around Bam on 26 December. Shaken repeatedly by strong aftershocks, the town’s mud-based architecture, including the celebrated 2,000-year-old citadel, then the world’s largest mud brick structure, quickly crumbled.To date, more than $74 million has been pledged for continuing relief efforts in Bam. UN and other humanitarian officials are already in the area to assess the most immediate needs, Mr. Eckhard said.In a related development, the spokesman reported that enough phone and radio equipment to accommodate some 5,000 users was installed in Bam within 24 hours of the earthquake by the telecommunications companies Ericsson and Turkcell. They also provided a radio base station, three mobile base stations, 10 generators and satellite equipment.This assistance came under an initiative launched by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who in 2000 appealed to the private sector to get more deeply involved in humanitarian relief operations. Answering this call, Ericsson, a Swedish-based international mobile phone company, launched a major disaster response programme called “First on the Ground.”

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