On the ground in India, UNICEF responds to quake
Staff Based in Gujarat Are Assessing Needs, Speeding in Supplies
Saturday, 27 January 2001: The United Nations Children's Fund announced
today it has mobilized more than $700,000 in immediate assistance for
the earthquake-stricken Indian state of Gujarat, supporting the relief
effort with critical medical supplies, blankets, chlorine tablets and
UNICEF's country team in India includes a group of 15 staff who are
based in Gujarat, all of whom survived the quake and who are now working
to provide emergency assistance on the ground. The UNICEF staff will
be joined by representatives from the World Health Organization, the
UN Population Fund, and the UN Disaster Management Team to create five
needs-assessment units that will begin a rapid sweep through the state
With top priority on supporting hospitals in caring for the injured
and preventing the spread of disease, the UN teams will assess immediate
needs in the areas of health, water, and sanitation. Their second immediate
priority will be to assess the impact of the quake on schools. The UNICEF
staff in Gujarat have expertise in all these fields.
"We are just beginning to see the scope of this disaster,"
said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. "The loss of
life could be astounding - and the task of helping the survivors stay
sheltered, safe, fed and protected from disease will require an enormous
outpouring of support."
UNICEF announced that it will provide $100,000
worth of life-saving medical supplies over the next 48 hours. An additional
$600,000 of relief items are being procured for a second major delivery.
Despite the long holiday weekend, UNICEF has already sent in an initial
shipment of relief items from its offices elsewhere in India. The items
§ 10,000 survival kits for displaced families
§ 25,000 blankets
§ 1 million chlorine tablets to purify water
§ 50,000 sheets of plastic for temporary sheltering
UNICEF said these commitments were just the
beginning of its support for the relief effort. Over the next two weeks
UNICEF will also be working closely with state and national officials
to sustain immunization coverage; help restart education if requested
by the authorities; and provide trauma counseling training to teachers
and others who work closely with children.
"Our experience with the Turkey earthquake taught us that even
as we work to help save lives and meet basic needs, we also need to
be planning for classrooms to be opened, child-friendly spaces to be
established, and other activities that help children cope with the disaster,"
Bellamy said. UNICEF said that finding safe, constructive activity for
children not only helps them cope with and recover from disaster but
gives their parents the peace of mind to focus on rebuilding efforts.
The relief effort over the next two to three weeks will be a massive
challenge, UNICEF said. Outside the major cities and towns, Gujarat
state is primarily rural, with pockets of isolated populations that
may be difficult to reach.
The agency also noted that Gujarat has suffered
from severe drought conditions over the past two years, meaning water
supplies are already tight. UNICEF
recently assisted the state government in preparing a drought mitigation
and drought-proofing programme that was to be implemented in the coming
six months. That programme will now be accelerated as part of the quake
relief effort. Safe water and sanitation systems will be essential in
the coming days to prevent the spread of disease.
The UNICEF team are working closely with the state emergency authorities
and with other agencies in the UN family, including UNDP and WFP.
UNICEF is presently basing its operations in the UNICEF office in Gandhinagar,
about 25 miles north of Ahmadabad, the commercial capital and most populous
city in Gujarat.
To make a contibution to UNICEF programmes, visit www.supportunicef.org,
or the United States Fund for UNICEF website.
UNICEF has National
Committees in 37 countries, each devoted to advocacy, public education,
and fundraising on behalf of the world's children.
* * *
For further information, please contact:
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326-7261
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On the ground in India, UNICEF responds to
quake Sat, 27 January 2001