ISLAMABAD, Oct 31 (AFP): Earthquake survivors in Pakistan will start dying from lack of food within a month if the world fails to help, and women and children will be the worst hit, the World Food Programme (WFP) said Monday.
There are already early signs of nutritional deficiencies in remote mountain areas hit by the October 8 quake and weakened people will fall prey to disease, the UN agency's emergency coordinator Michael Jones told AFP.
"In one month's time we will start to see malnutrition-related diseases and we will start to see people dying, they will say from hunger or starvation but it will be from weakened bodies," Jones said.
The WFP Friday more than doubled the number of people it said needed food aid including vitamin-enhanced wheat flour, saying it now had to get supplies to 2.3 million before snow starts to fall in mid-November.
United Nations officials have repeatedly warned that the death toll of more than 55,000 in Pakistan will soar unless wealthy nations give more cash to provide shelter, food and medical aid over the next six months.
The WFP says it needs another 100 million dollars.
Food was already a problem in the quake zone before the quake hit, with around 60 per cent of children there being chronically malnourished before the earthquake and 10 per cent affected by wasting of the body, Jones said.
A recent WFP assessment of the worst-hit area showed that more than half of rural households surveyed lost all or most of their grain stocks and a quarter of the livestock was killed.
Large numbers of children were found to be suffering from diarrhoea or respiratory illnesses, "suggesting that a rapid increase in cases of acute malnutrition could be imminent", the WFP said in a statement.
About 20 per cent of mothers with children aged under two had stopped breastfeeding, either because of illness or inadequate breast milk, it added.
"Unless there is regular supply and nutritional balance you start having deficiencies. That reflects itself in anaemia, goitre, night blindness, then the body's defence mechanism breaks down," Jones added.