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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

UNICEF aid arrives on Indonesian island hit by earthquake

© REUTERS Nias/Whiteside
A young survivor from Nias is taken to Sumatra for medical treatment. Hundreds more are feared dead amid the rubble of collapsed buildings.

By Jane O'Brien

NEW YORK, 1 April 2005 - Desperately needed supplies have arrived on the Indonesian island of Nias, where survivors are struggling with water shortages following this week’s earthquake. The relief effort has been severely hampered by bad weather and damage to the local airport.
Up to 500 people have died, with thousands more injured by falling masonry. Hundreds of buildings have been destroyed and the main city of Gunungsitoli is without water and electricity.

“For the time being, the people are drinking water that comes from wells that are not treated. In unhygienic conditions that is really quite bad,” said UNICEF Representative in Indonesia Gianfranco Rotigliano, who has just returned from Nias.

Two UNICEF treatment plants that will supply water for 40,000 people are due to arrive by helicopter. The Indonesian authorities say their delivery is now a priority. UNICEF water tanks and pumps are already being distributed, along with soap, hygiene kits and utensils.

UNICEF and the World Food Programme have been assessing the damage and 11 mobile medical teams will be visiting the worst-affected areas. More than 250 seriously injured people have already been evacuated from the island.

A key response is getting children back to school

“The first thing that you see is the destruction, the buildings collapsed, and the smell of the bodies which is quite strong,” said Mr. Rotigliano.

A key response in any emergency is getting children back to school, which offers them protection and a sense of normalcy. Dozens of schools have been destroyed and UNICEF is sending tents that will serve as classrooms.

Mr. Rotigliano said that one of the requests of the local authorities was to help put children back into school. “So we have [UNICEF] people arriving in the next week. They will make an assessment of how many schools are still standing and if they are reliable and if we can send the children back to school in those structures.”

The first child centre providing support and counselling will open in the next day and UNICEF health teams will be assessing the need for a campaign to immunize children against measles.




1 April 2005:
UNICEF Representative in Indonesia Gianfranco Rotigliano describes relief effort in Nias.

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