|A young earthquake survivor looks at the debris on a street in Pisco, near the epicentre of the massive earthquake that struck Peru on 15 August.|
By Kun Li
NEW YORK, USA, 22 August 2007 – “I was watching TV in my room when suddenly the power went out,” recalled Peruvian earthquake survivor Ivan, 11.
“We tried to get outside, but we couldn’t, because of all the dirt and dust,” he said. “Finally, we got out. I am here with my younger sister, my aunt, my mom. Everyone is desperate.”
The powerful earthquake shook Peru on 15 August, affecting more than 85,000 people in the southern part of the country. According to Peru’s National Institute for Civil Defense, a government authority, the quake killed 513 people, injured 1,090 and has left 37,521 families homeless.
|© La República|
|A boy injured in the quake receives medical treatment at one of the tents set up by the Ministry of Health.|
Ivan’s hometown, Pisco, was at the epicentre. Nearly 85 per cent of the city’s homes were badly damaged or destroyed. At least 200 people in Pisco were buried in the rubble of a historic church where they had been attending services.
Humanitarian aid coming
“We lost everything, we have nothing left, we have been left homeless,” said a desperate Pisco resident, Esperanza Micma, the day after the earthquake. “Up until now, no one has given us water or food. We haven’t had breakfast since yesterday, not even our babies.”
|© La República|
|In the community of El Bosque in Pisco, a group of children ask for help after the earthquake.|
One week on, hard-hit cities such as Pisco and Ica are still suffering from water shortages and lack of electricity and sanitation. To help communities in need, a joint UN mission is on the ground, working with the government to provide humanitarian support.
UNICEF Peru Health Officer Mario Tavera has visited affected areas along with a UN team.
“The most affected in the region were the poorest people,” he said. “Because almost 100 per cent of the homes that collapsed were constructed with mud blocks, they did not withstand the earthquake – and those houses all belong to people who are poor.”
|© La República|
|A group of children with their mothers spend their night in the main square of Ica, Peru, in the hours after the earthquake struck.|
Basic needs of survivors
In the devastated city of Pisco, Mr. Tavera added, “the population also needs access to clean drinking water, sanitation, proper waste disposal and health prevention information. Children need education opportunities and attention to their mental and emotional state.”
To help protect children from water-borne diseases, UNICEF has delivered chlorine, water containers and tanks, and water-purification tablets to the earthquake zone. In addition to the items already sent, the organization plans to provide another 500,000 chlorine tablets and 3,000 water containers for distribution through the Ministry of Health.
Looking toward the recovery and reconstruction phase of its response to this disaster, UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education to evaluate the quake’s impact on schools.
But for the moment, basic necessities are still critical for many quake survivors. “A huge number of people are still sleeping in the streets,” said Mr. Tavera, “so I believe our priority now is to give shelter to the people.”