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UNICEF rushes assistance to quake-stricken survivors in northern Afghanistan

NEW YORK, GENEVA, 27 March 2002 - The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) delivered 70 tonnes of emergency supplies to the thousands of quake survivors in the Baghlan province of northern Afghanistan hours after the earthquake hit. Today, a second UNICEF convoy arrived in the worst affected towns of Nahrin and Burka, transporting additional emergency materials - including desperately needed food, medicine and shelter.

"Our main concern now is to keep children from dying of exposure and disease," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. "These children have suffered enough - many of them have now also lost family members and their homes. Many more will be traumatized."

Five UNICEF staff members - including a doctor, a nutrition expert and a water engineer - are on the ground as part of a UN and NGO team assisting survivors. UNICEF is working closely with the Interim Administration to co-ordinate a rapid response to the emergency.

For an overview and stories from the field, visit UNICEF's Afghanistan pages.

UNICEF ground staff report that cold weather is exacerbating the precarious situation of those displaced by the earthquake. Most urgent needs are shelter, children's winter clothing, basic medicines and safe water and sanitation.

Baghlan province has been seriously affected by the recent drought - resulting in high numbers of the population already suffering from malnutrition. According to UN estimates, an estimated 80 per cent of the population in the earthquake affected area were already relying on relief supplies. The earthquake can only worsen the desperate situation of many children living in this remote area of northern Afghanistan.

The under 5 mortality rate in Afghanistan is estimated at 257 per 1,000 live births, or one in every four Afghan children. This is the fourth highest child mortality rate in the world, after Sierra Leone, Angola and Niger. One of every two Afghan children is malnourished. Half of all children are stunted in height while 10 -15 per cent are well below average weight.


For further information, please contact:
Patrick McCormick, UNICEF Media, NY, (1 212) 303-7910
Jehane Sedky-Lavandero, UNICEF Media, NY (1 212) 326-7269
Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Media, Geneva, (41 22) 909 5509
Chulho Hyun, UNICEF Media, Islamabad, (925) 221 3437
Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Media, Baghlan Province (882) 16 898 000 81