Reaching out to the children affected by the Pakistan earthquake
By Antonia Paradela
Ziarat district, Balochistan province, 31 October 2008 – Sabnan Guldin, a small three year old boy, is trying to bite an apple but suddenly looks up in fear as strangers enter his family’s compound. He is sitting on a mat in an area cleared of rubble. His home collapsed during the early hours of the morning three days earlier. He and the thirty members of his extended family managed to escape unharmed; one of them died. But since then they have been sleeping in the open by the ruins of their home in freezing night temperatures.
Around this area in the fertile valley of Ziarat, among orchards of apple trees, the small villages have seen major damage. In some not a single building has survived the earthquake. In the village of Waham every single family in a population of 1,200 people have lost a loved one.
Children are the worst hit by the earthquake that struck areas of the province of Balochistan in the south west of Pakistan on October 29th. According to recent government estimates, about 108,000 people have been affected and more that 15,000 mud/wood houses have been destroyed. More than half of those homeless are children.
They are also amongst Pakistan’s most vulnerable. One out of ten infants dies in Balochistan before completing his/her first year of age. Forty per cent of children under five are underweight. Maternal mortality is twice the country’s average. UNICEF and its partners are working to ensuring that children have access to safe water and essential relief supplies, healthcare as well as protection from abuse or exploitation.
From the day of the earthquake, UNICEF has started providing safe drinking water for about 12,000 people in the worst affected district, Ziarat, at the request of the provincial government. Sabnan and the children of his village have received warm clothing distributed by the children’s agency to 100 families.
UNICEF is also providing four emergency health kits and other relief supplies to meet the urgent needs of earthquake-affected children and their families. As part of support to malnourished children and pregnant and lactating women, UNICEF has delivered to the provincial disaster management agency 50 tons of UNIMIX, a nutritious food supplement. The organisation will also assist with the reopening of schools as well as the provision of school supplies.
“We are also working to make sure that vulnerable groups such as separated and orphaned children as well as female headed households have access to relief and services”, said the chief of UNICEF Field Office in Balochistan, Judith Bruno during a visit to the worst affected villages. “We are coordinating closely with the government and other partners to ensure than children like Sabnan and their families have the chance to rebuild their lives after the disaster”.