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Secretary-General to visit quake-affected areas of China as UN supplies pour in

Secretary-General to visit quake-affected areas of China as UN supplies pour in

A young mother and child in a camp for people whose homes were destroyed
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will travel tomorrow to China's Sichuan province, the area devastated by last week's massive earthquake, to assess the impact first-hand as United Nations continue to distribute relief supplies among the victims of the disaster.

The details of Mr. Ban's visit are still being worked out by Chinese authorities, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe said today in response to a question from reporters.

But the Secretary-General – who has been in Myanmar to help accelerate relief efforts there after this month's deadly cyclone – is expected to fly from Bangkok to China tomorrow morning and then return later the same day to the Thai capital.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is among the UN agencies helping with relief efforts by distributing hundreds of tents and quilts to provide emergency shelter for quake victims.

The first batch of 358 large tents and 1,500 quilts is due to arrive in quake-affected areas tonight, the agency reported, and follows the clothing, food, drinking water and medicines that it has already provided.

UNDP said the emergency supplies are part of the $2 million assigned to the agency out of the $8 million in relief grants contributed by the UN through its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

In a statement issued by his spokesperson last night, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the grant, saying it will be used by a variety of UN agencies, funds and programmes to help Chinese authorities meet the most urgent humanitarian needs.

“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,” the statement added.

State media report that the number of dead and missing as a result of the 12 May quake, which measured 8.0 on the Richter scale, has climbed to more than 55,000, with nearly 5.5 million homeless.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is buying a second round of relief supplies, including rice, wheat flour and cooking oil, and a shipment comprising 473 tons is expected to arrive in Sichuan by the end of the week.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is rushing additional medical supplies so that it can treat as many as 130,000 people. It is also sending experts to work with the Chinese Government on rebuilding its health infrastructure.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is also mobilizing reproductive health supplies, including clean delivery kits and hospital equipment required for Caesarean deliveries and blood transfusions.