NEW YORK, 30 December 2003 – UNICEF today appealed for nearly $1 million in emergency funds to help children who survived last week’s massive earthquake in Iran. According to initial estimates, the earthquake killed 20,000 people, injured 30,000 others and left 70,000 people homeless – of whom some 40,000 are still living on the streets.
UNICEF rushed an initial round of emergency supplies to Iran this past weekend. Two UNICEF relief flights on Sunday delivered medicine, obstetric kits, blankets, water purification tablets, community water tanks, portable generators and shelter supplies such as tents, tarpaulin and rope. The Norwegian government has already contributed two massive Rubbhall tents to safely store the relief items.
“Tens of thousands of children watched their world crumble around them,” said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. “Their needs are vast and urgent – everything from food, clean water, and shelter from the cold to assistance finding relatives and overcoming the trauma of the experience.”
The flash appeal for $990,000 will help UNICEF tackle immediate needs. UNICEF will specialize in:
With the assistance of the government of Belgium, UNICEF has already flown in 416 school-in-a-box kits, each of which contains school supplies and education materials for up to 80 students plus supplies for the teacher. Ensuring educational activities is a key way to give children a sense of normalcy – an area UNICEF will focus on once immediate survival needs are met.
The number of schools destroyed is not yet known, but the Iranian government said today the earthquake destroyed both of the city’s hospitals and all of its 23 health centres.
Children who survived the quake are at extreme risk of illnesses, including diarrhoea, dysentery or influenza. Such illnesses can be fatal without proper treatment.
With tens of thousands left homeless, the cold weather is also a significant hardship. Nighttime temperatures dip toward freezing, and many children have been left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. UNICEF in Iran is already making local purchases of 10,000 sets of children’s clothing (coats, sweaters, boots, trousers, and mittens) to distribute to those in need.
UNICEF also will work in cooperation with the government and local NGOS to assist with the more complicated challenges of helping children adjust to a radically altered life.
“Rebuilding the lives of these children is both an emergency effort and long-term commitment,” Bellamy said. “We’ll be there for both.”
UNICEF has been present and operated programs in Iran almost continuously since 1962.
UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. People around the world can support the UNICEF relief effort for Iran’s children by visiting the UNICEF Web site at www.unicef.org.
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For further information, please contact us:
Anis Salem, UNICEF Amman, (++962-79 557 9991)
Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Geneva, (++ 41 79 204 2345)
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York: (212) 326-7261
Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media, New York: (212) 326 -7452
Daily updates on the children of Bam at www.unicef.org