New Delhi/Bhuj, 24 January 2002: A year ago, an estimated three million children were directly affected by a 7.9 Richter scale earthquake in Gujarat. Over 12,000 primary schools and hundreds of Anganwadi and sub-health centres were destroyed or damaged. Since then, UNICEF, one of the first agencies to bring in humanitarian assistance, has been working with the State and people of Gujarat to help children and their families. The total commitment of UNICEF to the relief and rehabilitation efforts has reached US$ 25 million, UNICEF'S largest emergency assistance to India.
From the very beginning of our assistance, we have advocated that children should be at the centre of recovery and there has been significant progress. UNICEF has made a major effort to support the government to re-open schools less than five months after the earthquake, and today 94% schools are functional and the attendance rate is higher than before the earthquake," says Maria Calivis, UNICEF Representative in India. "This progress is the result of joint efforts by all partners."
Progress has also been seen in the areas of health, nutrition and access to water. For instance, there has been no epidemic outbreak and the December polio round was conducted normally. 92% of anganwadi centres are conducting regular growth monitoring*. 73% villages have access to piped water*.
"Psycho-social support to traumatised children is another innovative and highly successful intervention. Over 1,400 teachers and 250 NGO volunteers were trained by UNICEF. Through simple activities such as stories, songs and plays, they reach out and help 124,000 children," said Calivis.
Over the past year, UNICEF has closely worked with the state government, UN agencies, NGOs and communities to ensure that children's needs were given priority. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, UNICEF's assistance focused on children's survival and access to health care, safe water, shelter and food. UNICEF supplied 75,000 blankets, some 50,000 tarpaulins sheets, 398 tonnes of bleaching powder and 20 million chlorine tablets, some 56,000 family kits, 50 water tankers and 500 water tanks.
In February and March 2001, a measles immunisation and vitamin A campaign targeting 400,000 vulnerable children, and a tetanus immunisation campaign targeting 50,000 pregnant women were conducted successfully with UNICEF support.
On 14 June 2001, less than 5 months after the devastating earthquake, more than 400,000 children were going back to school for the first time in Gujarat. As the result of an unprecedented joint effort by the Government of Gujarat and UNICEF, over 2,000 schools, fully equipped, re-opened. For this to happen, UNICEF had distributed nearly 8,000 tents, 32,000 tables and chairs for the teachers, 8000 blackboards, hundreds of thousands of school bags, pencils, crayons, thousands of teaching materials, family kits for the teachers and recreation kits.
But UNICEF assistance in Gujarat goes beyond the emergency. Tented schools are being replaced by 148 pre-fabricated schools, equipped with latrines and water tanks. UNICEF is also providing similar structures to replace 176 Anganwadi centres and 145 health sub-centres, a key element in UNICEF's assistance to mothers and young children. These buildings are child-friendly spaces, built to withstand cyclonic winds and the worst earthquake conditions. UNICEF is providing 3,821 water tanks, 50 water supply pump houses and 1,000 toilet units, and is collaborating with women's organisations for the sustainable management of water. Local communities are involved at every stage to ensure their support and ownership.
For more information please contact:
Sandie Blanchet, Communication Section
Tel (office): 011 - 469 04 01
Mobile: 98 112 99 363
Dr. Yogendra Mathur, State Representative in Gujarat
Tel (office): 079-322 53 66