Amid mounting fears that the death and injury tolls will rise following the major earthquake which rocked Peru earlier this week, the United Nations is stepping up efforts to provide relief to victims.
So far, local authorities have confirmed 510 deaths, 1,000 injuries and over 16,000 homes destroyed. But these numbers could climb in coming days, since areas such as Nazca and Palpa in the hardest-hit department of Ica have so far been inaccessible.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that early data has revealed the cities of Cañete, Chincha and Pisco to be the most damaged by the tremors registering 7.9 on the Richter scale which struck Peru on the evening of 15 August.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has contributed $200,000 for relief efforts in the response phase and will allocate an additional $300,000 for reconstruction initiatives.
The agency’s Deputy Representative said that the Government’s response to the disaster has been well-organized. “It is a country that is used to this kind of emergency,” said Florence Bauer. “All the hospitals in the country, including the ones from the national army, are open to provide services to anyone who may need it.”
The agency believes that the water supply might be affected, and at the request of the Government, it is transporting emergency items – including water-purification tablets, water containers, oral rehydration salts and water tanks with a 10,000-litre capacity – from Panama to the Peruvian capital, Lima.
“Our first priority is for the affected population to have safe water,” said Ms. Bauer.
UNICEF is also working with the Ministry of Education to evaluation the quake’s impact on schools. “Fortunately, when the earthquake happened the schools were all closed,” said Ms. Bauer. “Today, all children of the country are not going to school because of the emergency. We know there is a high number of schools that have been destroyed.”
A UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team has been deployed and should arrive in Peru shortly to assist those impacted by the earthquake, whose epicentre was 161 kilometres south of Lima.
The Government has requested relief supplies such as shelter, tools and medicine, and it is working with the UN Country Team and the international community to identify the most urgent needs.
The UN Resident Coordinator in the South American country has activated the Emergency Operations Centre on a 24-hour basis, and has also informed the Government that an emergency cash grant to support assessment work is available.
Several UN agencies have received requests for assistance, and their responses are being coordinated by the UN Disaster Management Team (UNDMT), while the UN Emergency Technical Team (UNETT) is on standby to help should the Government request it.
A donors’ meeting, also attended by the Government, took place today. Yesterday, OCHA and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) announced that they had released two grants totalling $200,000 to provide immediate relief in the earthquake's aftermath.
Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced yesterday that it will provide $500,000 worth of urgently-needed food relief to victims of the country's earthquake.
UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Margareta Wahlström said at a press briefing in New York today that several of Peru’s neighbours – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Mexico – have provided supplies.
“I think you can see importantly a huge effort is done in the near region,” she said.
The Government, she said, has approved a compensation scheme of $312 per family member killed, and $1875 will be provided per family to reconstruct their homes.