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UNICEF provides medical equipment and ambulances in China quake zone

© UNICEF China/2009/Jin
UNICEF donated ambulances and medical equipment after last year's earthquake in China.

By Jin Bo

On 12 May 2008, China was hit by its worst earthquake in three decades. A massive reconstruction effort has followed. In the run-up to the disaster's first anniversary, UNICEF has revisited hard-hit areas in Sichuan and Gansu provinces. Here is one of the resulting stories.

ANXIAN, China, 14 April 2009 – Liu Ju will never forget the early morning of 26 February 2009. She was pregnant at the time, and on that day she began to have labour pains.

“I waited for a while and there was no sign that it would pass any time soon. My family called the local medical emergency number, and soon the ambulance arrived to pick me up,” she recalled. While on her way to Anxian Maternal and Child Care Centre, Ms. Liu gave birth to her daughter. Doctors did an examination of the new mother and her baby and found both were healthy.

The ambulance in which Ms. Liu gave birth to her daughter had been donated by UNICEF. In total, UNICEF provided 20 ambulances to affected regions last year after several hospitals were damaged in the devastating May 2008 earthquake in southwest China, which caused more than 69,000 deaths.

Spacious and well-equipped

Ms. Liu lives in Xiushui, a township in Sichuan Province that is only 113 miles away from Wenchuan County, the epicentre of last year’s earthquake. Like most other buildings in her community, Ms. Liu’s house was destroyed. She and her family have been living in prefabricated rooms since then.

For safety reasons, the main building of Anxian Maternity and Child Care Centre was shut down until July 2008, and all hospitalized pregnant women were transferred to nearby cities. The transfer would not have been possible without the modern ambulance.

“It is spacious and equipped with all the necessary facilities. It performs very well under most weather conditions,” said Li Xu, the ambulance driver.

Supplies for Qingchuan

In Qingchuan, another hard-hit county close to Anxian, an ambulance provided by UNICEF has also been playing an important role. 

Qingchuan Maternity and Child Care Centre occupies 27 prefabricated rooms, each of which is about 20 square metres in size. The head of the centre, Duan Shaoying, said the hospital’s own ambulance was smashed by flowstones in the earthquake. “When we got the car from UNICEF in May, everyone was thrilled,” she noted.

In addition to vehicles, UNICEF provided a large amount of medicine and nutritional supplements, as well as medical equipment, to the earthquake zone. The first shipment of supplies arrived by air on 30 May, less than three weeks after the quake.

'Build back better'

Since many buildings in Qingchuan were destroyed, all governmental departments and public facilities had to move to a temporary 'prefabricated city' that was built on farmland. According to Ms. Duan, all the major hospitals in Qingchuan were integrated temporarily after the quake to better mobilize and utilize all available resources. The ambulance from UNICEF was shared by all the hospitals and was dispatched two or three times every day.

And the medical equipment provided by UNICEF – such as infant incubators, paediatric examination tables, obstetric delivery beds and weight scales – has been crucial in guaranteeing the health of those women and their babies.

“Our goal now,” said Ms. Duan, “is to build back better.”



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