As cold weather nears, UNICEF and partners shelter Kyrgyzstan earthquake survivors
By Lucia Rovi
NEW YORK, USA, 10 October 2008 – Five days after a 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck the town of Nura in the Alai Rayon region of southern Kyrgyzstan, UNICEF, its partners and the Ministry of Emergency Situations are working around the clock to provide relief to quake victims.
As winter approaches, with nighttime temperatures already reaching the freezing point, homeless children and their families could face snow and frost in the next few weeks. Although winter tents have already been provided to families displaced by the quake, additional measures will have to be taken.
“The community members have actually decided they want to remain in the community, to be close to their belongings and cattle, which calls for a more permanent shelter,” said UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan Tim Schaffter in an interview with UNICEF Radio. “There is a big effort now on the part of the Ministry of Emergency, the government and donors to help establish more permanent structures, so they are looking into prefabricated housing”
Restoring a sense of normalcy
UNICEF and Save the Children UK are collaborating on a rapid assessment of psycho-social assistance needs among the affected population, especially children. Playgrounds and child-friendly safe spaces are being set up to promote child recovery from psychological distress.
“We are putting together a team of experts and psychologists who can work with children to help them discuss the traumatic experiences they have lived through, and to help to restore children’s environment to normal,” said Mr. Schaffter.
As part of its effort to restore a sense of normalcy for children, UNICEF is working to get them back to school as soon as possible. The school in Nura is one of the few buildings left standing.
Children worst affected
After an initial assessment of the quake zone by the UN, the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Red Cross, UNICEF has delivered basic relief items such as water-purification tablets, cooking and table sets, baby packs and soap. UNICEF has also sent ‘School-in-a-box’ kits to the stricken area.
Mr. Schaffter noted that “children were disproportionately affected” by the disaster, representing 43 of the 74 people killed and a high percentage of those injured.
“There’s a very high level of destruction in the one community that was affected,” he said. “Fortunately, the earthquake occurred in a very remote area.”
Listen to Timothy Schaffter, UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan, on the aftermath of the earthquake and the UNICEF action on the ground.