UN agencies say more cash donations needed for relief efforts in Iran

30 December 2003

With United Nations relief agencies having already contributed $500,000 from their emergency funds to help the victims of last week’s massive earthquake in Bam, Iran, a senior UN official said today more donations are needed to help the ongoing humanitarian operation.

“We badly need cash grants,” Rashid Khalikov, Deputy Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said at a press conference in Geneva.

Mr. Khalikov said the UN is coordinating 34 search and rescue teams in Bam from 30 countries, as well as the relief supplies that are pouring in. “Relief items continue to arrive [at] the airports, both in Bam and Karman, [and they] have been used to capacity, and we are approaching the stage that it is very difficult to accommodate incoming aircraft,” he said.

The UN is working with the Government of Iran to identify further needs, Mr. Khalikov added, such as shelter in the form of tents and plastic sheeting, as well as heaters to stave off the freezing temperatures.

According to initial estimates, the earthquake killed 20,000 people, injured 30,000 others and left 70,000 people homeless – of whom some 40,000 are still living on the streets. The death toll could top 50,000.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today called for nearly $1 million in emergency funds to help children who survived last week’s earthquake.

“Tens of thousands of children watched their world crumble around them," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said. “Their needs are vast and urgent – everything from food, clean water, and shelter from the cold to assistance finding relatives and overcoming the trauma of the experience.”

The flash appeal for $990,000 is intended to help UNICEF ensure the availability of clean water and sanitation facilities; provide emergency health kits, essential medicines, basic clinical and obstetric equipment and emergency shelter and blankets; identify children who have been separated from their families and reunite them with surviving relatives; assist with trauma; and establish schools and other safe environments for children.

The agency has already flown in over 400 “school-in-a-box” kits, which each enable teachers to educate up to 80 students in the absence of outside structures. Ensuring ongoing learning is a key way to restore a sense of normalcy among children, and UNICEF pledged to focus its attention on this goal once immediate survival needs are met.


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