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Iran, Islamic Republic of

Three years after the quake, UNICEF closes its emergency office in Bam, Iran

© UNICEF/HQ04-0005/Noorani
Fatima Hussain Zaidah, 5, was rescued from the debris of her fallen house in Bam, Iran, but six members of her family were killed in the December 2003 earthquake there.

By Bahareh Yeganehfar

BAM, Iran, 26 January 2007 – Three years after a devastating earthquake struck the ancient Iranian city of Bam, development and reconstruction continue apace and UNICEF has closed its emergency office.

More than 30,000 people were killed by the quake on 26 December 2003 and thousands more were left homeless. The city and surrounding communities were left utterly devastated.

Within hours of the disaster, UNICEF Iran was coordinating the provision of emergency deliveries from its Supply Division in Copenhagen to keep surviving children and their families alive.

Initial supplies included medicines and medical equipment, tarpaulins and blankets. Further provisions followed in the form of health supplies, hundreds of obstetric and surgical kits, water purification tablets, portable generators, tents, and School-in-a-Box and recreation kits.

As in all disasters, UNICEF’s priority – along with ensuring the health of survivors – was to re-establish normality in children’s lives as quickly as possible.

Children and families reunited

Zahra, 14, and Amir, 8, were orphaned by the earthquake. But as a result of efforts by UNICEF and the state welfare organization, the children found their grandparents and now live with them.

“I can still remember when my father pushed me out of the rubble,” says Amir, “but he couldn’t save himself. When they took him out he had many broken ribs and heavy bleeding. He died before reaching the hospital.”

In the quake’s immediate aftermath, 3,000 children were identified as having lost one or both parents. UNICEF helped protect them by training social workers, who continue to identify vulnerable children and families in need of support. They use a central database to monitor children’s progress and make referrals to appropriate services.

© UNICEF/HQ04-0024/Noorani
A UNICEF worker hands out notebooks to kindergarteners in a tent school at the Bafia camp for people displaced by the quake in Iran’s southeastern Kerman Province.

Helping children cope and learn

To help children and their families cope with the effects of disaster and loss, UNICEF provided initial psychosocial support followed by group counselling and the training of teachers, psychiatrists and psychologists. Almost 50 child centres in the quake-affected area now provide children of various ages with books, toys, games, educational materials and access to technology and counselling services.

Even though almost 90 per cent of schools in Bam were destroyed by the earthquake, classes in temporary classrooms restarted within just three weeks. In the process of tracking children since the disaster, thousands who were not already enrolled in school have been encouraged to begin or restart their education. Fifty schools have been rebuilt and equipped with computer equipment, science labs and libraries.

“This school is bigger, has green space and a playground,” one girl told UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mahtab Keramati, who visited Bam in December. “Our previous school was smaller and didn’t have green space or a sports field.”

Health and hygiene

UNICEF support can be seen in many areas, including the health, hygiene and nutrition of Bam’s residents. For example:

  • A new water-quality testing laboratory is now monitoring water safety
  • Hundreds of kilometres of UNICEF-procured, earthquake resistant pipes have been installed in the city, and a rural water network is near completion
  • Nine sanitary units have been added to girls’ high schools, and hygiene education has been institutionalized.

“Present-day Bam is 100 per cent different to Bam three years ago, thanks to efforts by national and international organizations, especially UNICEF,” said Bam’s Social Deputy Governor, Mostafa Hemmat-Nejad.




25 January 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Rachel Bonham Carter reports on achievements in Bam, Iran as the agency wraps up emergency operations three years after the earthquake there.
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