UN contributes $7 million for victims of deadly Chinese quake – Ban Ki-moon
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced today that up to $7 million will be released from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support United Nations relief efforts in the aftermath of Monday’s massive earthquake in China that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said that the grant will be used by UN agencies, funds and programmes to assist with urgent relief efforts.
“The United Nations stands ready to provide further support, as required, to the Government of China in its efforts to respond to the humanitarian needs caused by the disaster,” he added.
According to media reports, some 22,000 people have lost their lives in the devastating tremors, reaching about 7.9 on the Richter scale, whose epicentre was in Sichuan province, which has a total population of some 90 million.
According to Elizabeth Byrs of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), this is the worst earthquake to strike the country since quake in 1976 around the city of Tangshan, which killed 240,000 people.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, she said that over 100,000 people have been injured by the 12 May earthquake, and although 13,400 people have been rescued, more than 12,000 others remain trapped under the rubble.
Furthermore, nearly one million houses were either destroyed or sustained heavy damage.
Some of the hardest-hit areas are in mountainous regions, which are extremely difficult for rescue crews to access, Ms. Byrs noted.
China has welcomed global assistance, having identified tents and body bags, along with medicine, ready-to-eat meals, blankets, clothes, flashlights, among other supplies, as the most urgently-needed supplies.
She also said that the country’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has confirmed that the destruction of two facilities in the quake has resulted in sulphuric acid and liquid ammonia leaks. OCHA and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have offered their assistance to curb potential environmental damage.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced that it will purchase 1.6 million packages of ready-to-eat noodles – enough to feed 118,000 people for one week – for survivors.
“This is a symbol of our solidarity with the people of China,” said the agency’s Executive Director Josette Sheeran. “We stand ready to help in any way.”
For its part, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that it was responding to a request from the Chinese Government for specific supplies, such as tents, blankets and school kits, which will arrive within the next 48 hours.
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman voiced concern in a statement yesterday over schoolchildren who “were prominent victims of the quake, which struck during school hours and resulted in the collapse of a number of school buildings.”
The agency’s China bureau estimated that 12 million school-age children lived in Sichuan province, with 2 million of them in the worst-affected area.
Meanwhile, the UN agency tasked with minimizing the threat posed by natural disasters stressed today that collapsed buildings are the leading killer in earthquakes, as Monday’s earthquake as well as the 2005 quake in Pakistan and others have shown.
“We know how to make buildings more resistant to earthquakes, but this knowledge is still not yet well disseminated among decision-makers who enforce building codes for houses, schools and hospitals” said Salvano Briceño, Director of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR).