UNICEF: Children Seriously Affected by Qinghai Earthquake

BEIJING–(ENEWSPF)–19 April 2010 – As teams of rescuers continue to search for survivors in earthquake flattened Jiegu Town, on the 4000 metre high Tibetan plateau, the immediate danger to children from cold weather has emerged. Over the weekend many residents slept in the open in sub-zero temperatures, trying to keep warm under blankets. UNICEF is now responding to requests from education and health authorities for assistance, and closely collaborating with other UN agencies.

UNICEF is coordinating its assistance with relevant authorities best placed to assess the needs of children. During the critical early period there is a danger that multiple assessment missions could seriously hamper the progress of ongoing search and rescue operations. Within the next several days UNICEF will dispatch 5,000 sets of warm children’s clothing, 150 72sqm school tents and 2,000 wool blankets. Today’s weather forecasts calls for light to medium snow.

“This earthquake hit one of China’s very poor and remote communities,” said Dr Yin Yin Nwe, UNICEF China Representative and Chair of the United Nations Disaster Management Team. “We are concerned about the impact on children and their families.”

By Monday, quake casualty numbers had reached 1,706 dead, 256 missing and 12,128 injured – including 1,424 severely. Some 6,870 people have been rescued from debris while an unknown number may still buried beneath collapsed buildings. 100,000 residents have been made homeless with 85% of all buildings toppled.

According to local education authorities 80 per cent of primary schools and 50 per cent of secondary schools in Yushu have been severely damaged affecting 23,197 students and 938 teachers. The latest available number of school casualties stands at 103 children and 12 teachers dead, 684 students and teachers injured as well as 73 students and teachers missing or buried. Approximately half of school children in Yushu County study in boarding schools.

At the request of relevant authorities UNICEF is also preparing to supply 2,000 children’s winter boots, 5,000 student kits and shoulder bags, 500 blackboards, ambulances, generators and medical equipment.

“Schools in the affected area have suffered extensive damage and we will support the government’s efforts to ensure that transitional facilities are set up,” said Dr Nwe. “Following disasters such as this it is important that children can return to normalcy as soon as possible. We have evidence from the Sichuan earthquake that going back to school with appropriate psycho-social support helps children recover.”

The Government of China has launched a major disaster response focusing on rescue and relief and mobilization soldiers and relief personnel. The Ministry of Civil Affairs has sent relief items including tents, winter clothes and quilts to the region. Approximately 200 rescuers were forced to leave the quake zone due to altitude sickness.

According to Qinghai health authorities the maternal and child health hospital in Yushu County collapsed in the earthquake. There is an urgent need for medical supplies and childbirth equipment.