GENEVA / ALGIERS, 26 May 2003 - UNICEF launched on Monday an emergency appeal to donors for help in providing emergency relief supplies to victims of the massive earthquake that struck Algeria on May 21, killing more than 2,000 people and injuring 9,000 others.
UNICEF had already dispatched the first consignment of emergency supplies that arrived in Algeria on Saturday. The 15-tonne consignment, valued at $120,000, was flown from the UNICEF warehouse in Copenhagen. It included four emergency health kits, five field hospital tents, obstetric kits, recreation kits and baby blankets. The emergency kits, sent at the request of the Ministry of Health, will cover basic emergency medical needs for a population of 40,000 for three months.
"This was only a first reaction. We do believe that the children of the area will require further support for weeks, maybe months," said UNICEF Representative in Algeria Mr. Kiari Liman-Tinguiri.
The UNICEF emergency response team, other UN agencies and NGOs will continue in the coming days to support Algerian efforts to alleviate the suffering of people as more than 1,000 are still missing and thousands others made homeless. Casualty figures increase by the hour.
The flash appeal for $240,000 will fund the procurement of additional supplies to tackle existing needs. These will include family and infant hygiene kits, Oral Rehydration Salts, First Aid kits, water purification units and chemicals, water storage equipment, additional recreation kits and sport items for children.
The epicenter of the earthquake that measured 6.7 on the Richter Scale was located to the north of the town of Zemmouri, in the northern province of Boumerdes, which was 90 per cent destroyed. This has deprived the population of access to basic services, such as medical aid, safe water and telecommunications.
UNICEF immediately dispatched teams to undertake quick assessments in the hardest hit areas. This covers a zone 80 kilometers in length and affecting a population of more than 70,000. Of these, 40,000 are children.
"There is an overwhelming need for temporary shelter for families whose homes have been destroyed and for those unable to return to their homes," said UNICEF Representative in Algeria Mr. Kiari Liman-Tinguiri. "Lack of alternative accommodation or tents has forced most of the affected population to stay outside their homes in makeshift tents, while hundred of families simply sleep outside."
Health services have been severely affected as infrastructure and equipment was damaged or destroyed. In Thenia, for example, the city hospital was hard hit by the quake, which left 80 per cent of the hospital wards destroyed or unusable, including the emergency ward and other key wards such as the surgery block, the maternity and pediatric wards.
Another serious problem is the damage to water and sanitation networks, as well as limited electricity provision. Clearly visible is the traumatic effect that the earthquake and its aftermath are having on the population, especially children. People live in fear of further tremors and many more have lost family members and friends.
"We cannot pretend to cover all of the needs of the population," Liman-Tinguiri said. "We do hope though that our quick reaction will make a difference for the well being of women and children in this devastated region."
UNICEF shall work in coordination with the National Crisis Cell and the UN agencies internal coordination mechanisms in order to ensure that the material delivered reach the most needy.
UNICEF has also supplied 7,000 liters of milk and 2,000 boxes of nappies to the Muslim Scouts of Algeria for distribution in a camp of in Regaia.
For more information, please contact:
Gordon Weiss, UNICEF New York, Tel: ++ 212 326-7426
Damien Personnaz, UNICEF Geneva, Tel(41) 022 909 5517
Kiari Liman-Tinguiri, Representative, or Faycal Oulmi, Ass. Communications Officer
UNICEF-Algiers, Tel :00.213.21.69.21.35, Fax :00.213.21.69.22.47