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Three months after Chinese earthquake, UN continues to assist recovery

Three months after Chinese earthquake, UN continues to assist recovery

Fields damaged by the earthquake in Sichuan Province
United Nations agencies are continuing to help millions of people rebuild their lives in south-western China, three months after the region was devastated by an earthquake that left more than 80,000 people dead or missing.

The Wenchuan earthquake not only devastated lives and livelihoods, but also destroyed basic services and infrastructure when it struck on 12 May. In Sichuan and neighbouring Gansu and Shaanxi provinces, an estimated 5 million buildings collapsed, 21 million buildings were damaged and over 40 million people were affected. The area also continues to be jolted by strong aftershocks.

According to the Chinese Government, reconstruction could take as long as three years. Permanent structures need to be rebuilt, livelihoods and basic services need to be restored and collapsed schools need to be constructed.

UN agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) all have continuing operations in China.

“Our message today is that the United Nations will continue to support the Chinese people in recovering from this disaster,” the UN Resident Coordinator in China, Khalid Malik, said. “The relief phase has come to a close but the medium and long-term needs are immense and it is our hope that the international community will further support the Chinese authorities as they work on helping the people in the quake-hit areas to restore their livelihoods.”

FAO is working with local authorities and the local media to provide useful information and technology for the recovery of agricultural activities with the emphasis on building back better.

ILO launched a “Start and Improve Your Business” project in cooperation with the United Kingdom, aimed at helping small entrepreneurs and workers whose businesses were damaged or destroyed. This project aims to assist vulnerable groups in rural areas by providing small grants, especially to women, to help them restore their livelihoods.

UNICEF announced last week that it will work with the Chinese Government to set up 30 child-friendly spaces for the long-term psychological recovery of children and families affected by the earthquake. These spaces will offer social activities and will help experts identify children showing initial signs of more serious trauma.

UNDP is helping conduct a legal assessment aimed at the post-disaster relief and reconstruction process, looking at issues such as property rights, adoption, inheritance and insurance. It is also supporting the creation of a long-term strategy for disaster risk management and backing a rural recovery project in some of the poorest villages.

UNESCO is providing assistance to the two earthquake-affected World Heritage sites in south-western Sichuan province, namely the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries and Mount Qingcheng and Dujiangyan Irrigation System. The agency is also providing equipment and skills training to staff at the Maer’kang television and radio station, which was destroyed by the earthquake.

UNFPA is providing $1.2 million for early relief and recovery of health services. The funds will mainly be used to provide hygiene kits, equipment and supplies for essential health services, as well as training in psycho-social support.

WHO is providing advice and technical support in planning the reconstruction of the health-care system. The agency brought in international experts on post-disaster reconstruction in response to a request from the Chinese Government for international best practices. WHO is also designing a training programme in psycho-social support and the prevention and control of communicable diseases.