Five months after Pakistan was devastated by an earthquake which killed more than 73,000 people, injured nearly 70,000 and left millions homeless, the emergency aid phase is nearing its end and the United Nations is set to formally launch a year-long recovery and reconstruction stage, humanitarian officials said today. Plans are underway with UN Special Envoy for the South Asian Earthquake Disaster, former United States President George H. W. Bush, for a high level launch of ‘The Action Plan from Relief to Recovery’ in New York, which will also be locally launched at field hubs in Pakistan.It will cover a one year period starting in April 2006 and has been prepared in close collaboration with Pakistani military and civil authorities. UN Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick praised the role of the Pakistani Government and the disciplined efforts of the humanitarian community, especially civil society, for the success of the relief phase. “There has been no second wave of deaths, no massive population movement down the mountains, no severe malnutrition, and no outbreak of epidemics,” Mr. McGoldrick said.The major challenges were keeping relief operations going until the end of this month, improving sanitation especially in the smaller camps and preparing for the return of Internally Displaced People (IDP) on the basis of a voluntary and informed consent.Mr. McGoldrick warned that there will be a continued risk of landslides as the snow starts to melt in the spring and even more so later in the year when the monsoon season sets in. “Road accessibility will remain a major challenge, and it is expected that there will be a continued need for a minimum of five to six helicopters until at least September,” he said. Issues such as food assistance beyond March, camp closures, provision of health care, utilities, education, land ownership, rubble removal, urban/rural planning, special support to vulnerable groups and consistent provision of information about the returns process are being discussed with Pakistani authorities and partner organizations.