The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today launched a $150 million healthcare and education recovery plan for areas affected by last year’s earthquake in Pakistan, which killed over 73,000 people, left millions homeless and destroyed or damaged almost 10,000 schools and three quarters of all health facilities.
“The rebuilding of schools and health centres is a highlight of our roadmap to recovery in what many people have called the children’s catastrophe,” said outgoing UNICEF Representative Omar Abdi in a press release from Islamabad. Along with those killed, the 8 October earthquake, whose epicentre was in Muzaffarabad, also injured nearly 70,000.
A special construction unit is being established in UNICEF’s Pakistan headquarters to coordinate the massive task of rebuilding health facilities and schools with the Pakistani Government’s Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency.
“Underscoring our recovery plans is the commitment to build back better – a commitment we share with the Government of Pakistan. That is why we are planning to build earthquake-resistant schools and health facilities. We are also going to build 1,000 earthquake-resistant water supply systems,” said Terje Thodesen, head of UNICEF’s emergency programme for Pakistan.
UNICEF also plans to boost the quality and extent of education, healthcare, hygiene awareness, clean water and sanitation, and protection of children. It will also provide training to around 20,000 teachers and 4,000 community-based health workers; introduce hygiene awareness through schools and health worker networks; target malnutrition rates and develop child protection networks.
It aims to have around 500,000 children enrolled in primary school in affected areas by mid-2008, including all of the children who went to school before the earthquake and 30 per cent of those who had previously never attended school.
UNICEF has set up four field offices in the earthquake-affected areas, allowing staff to work more efficiently and safely although access is being hampered by wet weather, landslides and inhospitable terrain, with Mr. Thodesen highlighting that many devastated villages can only be reached by jeep and on foot.
The agency has appealed to the donor community to give as generously to its rehabilitation and reconstruction plan as it did to the immediate relief effort and has praised donors and partners – such as the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Norway and the European Union – for their contributions.