|© REUTERS/Aly Song|
|The baby of an earthquake survivor at a coliseum housing people who have been displaced by the disaster in Mianyang, Sichuan province.|
By Xu Xin
JUYUAN, China, 19 May 2008 – UNICEF rushed emergency relief supplies to children affected by the 12 May earthquake yesterday. The most recent report from the Xinhua news agency has the official death toll so far at approximately 28,880 with an additional 198,350 persons injured.
As part of the first consignment of aid, UNICEF has sent 1,000 tents, 15,000 blankets and 60,000 school kits, which are expected to arrive in quake-affected areas today. Health equipment, medicines and water and sanitation materials will soon follow.
“We are going to do our utmost to assist the Chinese government to care for and protect children affected by this terrible, terrible tragedy,” said UNICEF Representative and Chair of the UN Disaster Management Team in China, Dr. Yin Yin New. "It is truly encouraging to see how the whole country has rallied in support the Government’s relief response."
A total of 3.3 million homes have been destroyed and 15.6 million homes have been damaged.
“The situation now is critical,” stressed Dr. Yin. “We need to move as fast as possible, with no delays, to speed life-saving medicines, vaccinations, water purification tablets, oral rehydration salts, obstetrics and surgical kits, water containers and the like. Those children who have survived the earthquake are in great need.”
‘Racing against time’
Rescuers have been racing against time to search for survivors in the Juyuan Township Middle School, which collapsed in the earthquake. As of last week, some 50 people were confirmed dead.
“The rescue work goes on very slowly,” said UNICEF programme consultant Wang Shuguang, who noted last week that children’s bodies are still being removed from beneath the collapsed school. “As most families live in remote areas, their parents are still trekking in the rain on the muddy road, hoping that they can be there by their side,” he added.
|© UNICEF China/2008/ Munro|
|UNICEF tents being inspected and processed for shipment to the quake-affected communities in southwest China.|
Mr. Wang and other volunteers went to Juyuan to deliver food and water to people in need two days after the quake. The school stood about 100 km away from the epicentre in Wenchuan County.
“The surviving students can’t even speak a word after being saved from the debris. They just cry,” said Mr. Wang.
Survivors in dire need
After the quake jolted the region, Mr. Wang immediately rushed to hard-hit Dujiangyan City to look for his own child, who survived the quake.
“I found my little girl on the playground. I could hardly recognize her, she looked so pitifully dirty. She was drinking only the rainwater,” he recalled.
Up to now, there has been no official tally of the children affected by the devastating earthquake, but it is estimated that 2.3 million children in the worst-hit region may have been affected.
The surviving students are enclosed in the school grounds to protect them from aftershocks and other possible harm. But they have no food, safe drinking water or power, as the relief efforts are now mainly focused on the area around the collapsed school.
“The children and their families are in dire need of shelter, water and basic life necessities. They also need us to stand by their side and hold their hand to get over this tragedy,” said Mr. Wang.