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UNICEF mobilizes for Yunnan Earthquake

Children’s health, hygiene, emotional needs are great in one of China’s poorest counties

Children play at a temporary shelter following a powerful earthquake that destroyed thousands of homes near the border between Yunnan and Guizhou Provinces.  (Photo by CFP)

BEIJING, 17 September 2012– The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is mobilizing to send urgently needed support for children affected by the 5.7 magnitude earthquake which recently struck Yunnan. The tremor, which killed 81 and injured more than 800, wiped out 1,900 houses and severely damaged another 37,500. Subsequent heavy rains and mudslides have caused additional damage, and hampered access to the region.

“We are very concerned that many children in this very poor region have been severely affected,” said Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF China Representative. “In support of Chinese government efforts, we are preparing a rapid response on all fronts with health supplies, hygiene kits and school supplies for students in boarding schools.”

The worst impacts of the disaster are centered on Yiliang County, a very remote part of Yunnan.  Health, education and water supply infrastructure in the county have suffered extensive damage. Local UNICEF counterparts report high incidence of diarrohea and fevers among survivors, and very limited access to drinking water. In Yiliang 257 schools have been severely damaged affecting tens of thousands of students.

Yiliang is an existing UNICEF focus county, where integrated maternal and child healthand social assistance projects are underway.

 “We are also working with local government partners to rapidly deploy three Child Friendly Spaces to cater for children’s immediate emotional and psycho-social needs,” said Gillian Mellsop. “One of the most urgent and challenging priorities is to quickly support the psycho-social needs of children whose lives have been turned upside down by the disaster.”

UNICEF is working with the Yunnan Working Committee on Children and Women to set up the Child Friendly Spaces based on the model established following the Wenchuan earthquake. The original Child Friendly Spaces set up in 2008 have become permanent, locally funded centres for child protection services at the community level.

Following the powerful earthquake and heavy rains that struck a remote part of Yunnan Province thousands of families are homeless and living in temporary shelters. (Photo by CFP)

Yiliang County in Yunnan is a “National Poverty County” with an average annual household income of RMB 2,310 (US$ 360). Existing maternal and child health indicators are weak with 22 per cent stunting due to malnutrition 36 per cent measles immunization coverage.

According to a recent UNICEF village survey in Yiliang County a large number of residents migrate to other areas to gain employment. UNICEF is currently working with Local Government agencies to set up a new poverty alleviation strategy integrating maternal child health and conditional cash transfers.


About UNICEF in China: UNICEF first assisted China between 1947 and 1951, providing emergency services, food and nutrition, health and hygiene training during and after the civil war. In 1979 UNICEF officially commenced its cooperation with the Government of China to support child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is on the ground in over 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.

For further information, please contact: Dale Rutstein, UNICEF China, +86 13910973801, drutstein@unicef.orgor or Liu Li, UNICEF China, +86 13701066671,






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What we do in the region: Emergencies


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