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News note

80 per cent of primary schools destroyed in Qinghai Earthquake

UNICEF rushing classroom tents, school supplies to affected children

BEIJING, 21 April 2010 – The 7.1 magnitude earthquake which struck near the town of Jiegu in northwest China, took a heavy toll on schools. Local education authorities estimate 80% of primary schools and 50% of secondary schools in the county were severely damaged. UNICEF yesterday dispatched 150 school tents to the earthquake zone in a bid to support education authorities’ goal of re-establishing regular classes by the end of April. Yushu is one of the poorest counties in China.

Fully 50% of students in Jiegu Township are boarding students, sent from surrounding areas to the county seat for their studies. Yushu County has a total of 22,719 students and 1,086 teachers. The early return of children to school following disaster is an important step in helping them overcome psychosocial stress. The UNICEF 72 square metre classroom tents will provide space for 7,500 students to resume their studies. UNICEF is also sending student supply kits, blackboards and generators, as well as warm clothing, boots, wool blankets and school supplies for children in both day and boarding schools.

“We are very happy that strong Government efforts are being made to assist children to recommence classes following this disaster,” said Dr. Yin Yin Nwe, UNICEF Representative in China and Chair of the UN Disaster Management Team. “We are working with education authorities to provide all the basic needs required for children to continue to learn.”

As of 20 April, the number of earthquake casualties stood at 2,064 dead, 175 missing and 12,135 injured. The lack of food, clothing and shelter combined with the high altitude, freezing temperatures and difficult road access continue to complicate relief efforts. Recent snowfall, high winds and the heavy traffic of relief convoys are also hindering efforts.

As search and rescue efforts wind down UNICEF continues to coordinate its assistance with local and national authorities best placed to assess the needs of children.

Food supply is also a serious problem in the earthquake zone and UN agencies are working together to coordinate assistance. Vitamin and mineral supplement packets from UNICEF will be provided along with staple foods for young children from World Food Programme in order to increase nutrient intake.

Currently, civil affairs authorities are still trying to determine the number of children who have lost one or both parents to the earthquake. Given the loss of lives caused by the earthquake and the extensive damage caused to homes, schools and communities, psychological distress to children and other  vulnerable groups has been identified as a grave concern.

UNICEF will help the National Working Committee on Children and Women to establish “Child Friendly Spaces” to provide a range of psycho social support services for affected children. UNICEF has found that 90–95% of children and women are able to recover following disasters from community based services alone; however, but 5–10% require more expert treatment to recover. Failure to promptly and appropriately address the psychological and social needs of children and communities can have long-term consequences on their capacity to recover.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports 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 funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

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

Patrick McCormick, UNICEF Media, New York,  Tel + 1 212 326-7426, Email: pmccormick@unicef.org




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