|Mariam sits beside a few of the items she has been able to salvage from her destroyed house in Bam.|
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Tens of thousands of children, women and men are in need of shelter and medical attention after a devastating earthquake destroyed large parts of the city of Bam in southeast Iran.
Within 48 hours of the devastating quake on 26 December 2003, UNICEF flew in 40 tons of much-needed medical supplies, blankets, water tanks, and material for building makeshift shelters.
Freezing temperatures are a big concern; most of the population is sleeping outdoors and is vulnerable to illness, especially children. Even before the quake, one in four Iranian children suffered from acute respiratory infection. Another risk is dysentery due to poor sanitary conditions and lack of water in Bam. In order to combat these risks UNICEF is helping provide clean water, latrines and blankets. Several UNICEF experts have arrived to support local authorities in the relief effort.
Displaced children are the major concern for UNICEF. “Time is of the essence at this stage,” said UNICEF Representative in Iran, Kari Egge. “While the urgent search for survivors continues, it is equally urgent to care for the thousands of children left homeless by this devastating quake. The children are very vulnerable.”
UNICEF was one of the first agencies on the ground in previous major earthquakes, including the Gujarat quake in India in 2001 and the Turkey earthquake in 1999. Valuable lessons learned in those emergencies is helping UNICEF provide aid in Iran. In addition to providing medical supplies, water, and basic shelter equipment, UNICEF will be seeking to protect children who have lost their families or been separated, and to re-open schools and health centers as quickly as possible.
UNICEF’s presence in Iran dates back to 1962. With UNICEF’s help, immunization coverage in Iran is over 90 per cent and polio is almost eliminated.
Developments in education have also been positive. In 2001 the literacy rate of the population aged over six years of age reached 80.4 per cent (85.1 per cent of men and 75.6 per cent of women) owing to the massive governmental investment. The average school enrolment rate is 97 per cent, but there are still significant variations between regions.
One in five families in Iran do not have access to clean water nor adequate sanitation.
The total population of children in Iran: 28 million.
The adult population in Iran: 68 million.
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