China

Helping quake-affected children cope with trauma in Sichuan province

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF China/2008/ Hellman
Children who lost their homes during the Sichuan earthquake are among an estimated 5 million people who have been left homeless by the disaster.

MIANYANG CITY, China, 21 May 2008— Wang Yue, a fourth-grade primary school student, can’t think about the events of last week’s earthquake in Sichuan province without crying.
 
“When the earthquake happened, I had just finished my work in the vegetable garden and planned to watch TV. In less than a minute, the earth started to quake. I didn’t know it was an earthquake in the first place. My only thought was to rush out. After I escaped, the house just fell to the ground,” she said.

Wang Yue is one of about 12,000 displaced survivors who are living in Jiuzhou Stadium in Mianyang City – just a fraction of the more than five million people who are homeless in Sichuan province.

Death toll rising

The official death toll has reached 41,353 with nearly 33,000 people missing. Nearly 750,000 people are injured.

“We were in the classroom, which started to shake. We were puzzled why it quaked. Then someone said it was an earthquake. One of my classmates was crushed dead and several were injured,” said Cheng Yunfu.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF China/2008/ Gao Jie
UNICEF tents are unloaded at Chengdu airport for families made homeless by the Sichuan earthquake.

UNICEF is part of a high level Chinese government mission to Sichuan province that will provide immediate support for children who are suffering mental trauma.

Its highest priority will be helping children who have been separated from their parents.

‘Reach out quickly’

“It’s important to reach out quickly to children who have been affected by the traumatic experiences they have been through,” said UNICEF Representative and Chair of the UN Disaster Management Team for China Dr. Yin Yin Nwe.

The children living in the stadium are resuming some semblance of normal life. A makeshift camp school has been built outside the stadium and lessons have resumed. Townspeople are visiting regularly, bringing food and clothing. On this day, a local woman brings a small gift for Wang Yue in the hope that it will make her feel better.

“This bracelet will bring good luck to you,” she said.


 

 

Video

21 May 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on the trauma that children are facing in the aftermath of China’s earthquake.
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