China: UN supplies medical kits and telecoms equipment for earthquake relief

China: UN supplies medical kits and telecoms equipment for earthquake relief

Searching for survivors in the aftermath of the devasting earthquake in China (16 May 2008)
Emergency health kits capable of providing assistance to 30,000 people for up to one month have been rushed into the quake-affected areas of Sichuan province in China by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).

One hundred satellite terminals have been deployed to provide accurate coordination of relief and rescue operations by the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU), as UN aid agencies continue their humanitarian efforts.

State media report that over 41,000 people lost their lives as a result of the massive temblor on 12 May, 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.

WHO is sending an expert team to collaborate with the Government on rebuilding its health infrastructure, while about 5,000 chlorine disinfection tablets, drinking-water treatment units and mobile toilets are being supplied to control the outbreak and spread of communicable diseases such as diarrhoea.

In a statement issued today, WHO said that it promotes the construction of hospitals and health facilities that can survive the impact of natural disasters, including high-intensity earthquakes. In most cases a very small increase in construction costs is sufficient to enable health facilities to withstand such disasters.

ITU said the 100 mobile satellite terminals they are supplying are easily transported by road and air and can be used by both humanitarian workers and quake victims.

“I would like to assure the Government that ITU is ready to provide expertise in carrying out telecommunication network damage assessments aimed at paving the way for the rehabilitation of the damaged telecommunications structure,” said Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.

The hand-held Thuraya satellite phones use both satellite and GSM networks and can provide accurate GPS coordinates to support relief and rescue efforts.

The UN has contributed $8 million from its Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) to the Chinese Government, and for use by the world body’s agencies working on the ground.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is supplying tents and emergency shelter, while the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is providing relief food supplies of rice, wheat flour and cooking oil.

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, and is also providing 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.