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China: UN steps up aid efforts for victims of deadly quake

China: UN steps up aid efforts for victims of deadly quake

A young mother and child in a camp for people whose homes were destroyed
The United Nations is continuing to rush aid to victims of last week’s devastating earthquake that struck Sichuan province in China’s south-west.

According to state media, over 41,000 people lost their lives as a result of the quake, which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale. Some 32,000 people are missing, while more than 250,000 others have sustained injuries. Roughly 5 million people have been left homeless.

The UN refugee agency is supplying 11,000 tents to provide emergency shelter for 55,000 people, in response to yesterday’s request by the Government.

“This urgently needed aid is an expression of our solidarity with those suffering as a result of this terrible disaster,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres.

The final details of the delivery of the tents, manufactured in China for the agency, are currently being hammered out with Chinese authorities. It is hoped that they will be delivered as soon as possible.

For its part, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is purchasing a second round of relief food supplies, comprising rice, wheat flour and cooking oil, to feed 100,000 people for three weeks.

The 473-ton shipment of aid is slated to arrive in Sichuan province by the end of the week and will be distributed as part of Red Cross emergency packages.

WFP hopes that this food will offer strength to the survivors of this terrible tragedy,” said Anthea Webb, the agency’s Representative to China. “By supplying food now, we aim to allow the Government and local partners to focus on settling the survivors into safe accommodation.”

The first batch of WFP supplies – enough instant noodles to feed 100,000 people for one week – reached Mianyang, a city in north-west Sichuan, and is ready to be delivered.

The WFP-managed UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) is sending airlifts of aid from Brindisi, Italy.

The Italian Government has sent two shipments of supplies, including a field hospital, tents, high-energy biscuits and medicines. So far, one arrived in Chengdu over the weekend while another is expected to touch down in China on Thursday.

WFP is organizing a third flight – on behalf of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Irish Government – containing additional tents and blankets.

Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is taking part in a mission organized by the Government to provide immediate psycho-social assistance for children suffering from emotional trauma following the tremors.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) assembled the team – including UNICEF professionals, psycho-social recovery specialists and senior government officials – in response to reports of children exhibiting signs of severe stress related to the massive earthquake.

“It is important to reach out quickly to children who have been affected by the traumatic experiences they have been through,” said Yin Yin Nwe, UNICEF Representative and Chair of the UN Disaster Management Team for China.

“After the 2007 Yunnan earthquake, when UNICEF provided technical assistance for child psycho-social support we found 95 per cent of children were naturally resilient and could be helped through community-based psycho-social care,” Dr. Nwe added. “The remaining 5 per cent needed to be referred for psychological treatment.”

Efforts to collect information on children separated from their parents have been impeded by damaged infrastructure, the agency noted. If children are suddenly separated from their families, their vulnerability to abuse and exploitation increases.

UNICEF has also procured more than $400,000 worth of supplies, including tents, blankets and school kits.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has allocated $100,000 for emergency relief activities, part of which will be put towards coordinating the aid response.

Also today, the UN contributed $8 million from its Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) to the Chinese Government, and these funds will be used by six of the world body’s agencies working on the ground.

“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,” said Khalid Malik, UN Resident Coordinator in the country.