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At a glance: Peru

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Gian Marco Zignago visits shelters in earthquake-ravaged areas of Peru

© UNICEF Peru/2007
UNICEF Peru Goodwill Ambassador Gian Marco Zignago encouraged children during his visit to Peru.

By Christine Skladany

LIMA, Peru, 14 September 2007 – UNICEF Peru Goodwill Ambassador Gian Marco Zignago recently visited with victims of last month’s devastating earthquake in Pisco, Peru. Mr. Zignago, a popular Peruvian entertainer, listened intently as many children told him of their experiences and their ongoing fears. The singer also shared his own childhood memories of an earthquake.  

“My mom wrapped me in towels and pulled me out of the bathtub,” recalled Mr. Zignago. “The whole building moved and the experience really frightened me. I cried for days because I was so scared, probably like the way you are feeling now.”

Mr. Zignago, is visiting the area to find out how children are coping in the wake of the disaster. He encouraged the children to set their fears aside, if only for a short time, and to enjoy being children again, after which he invited them to come and play soccer with him on an outside field. 

Raising awareness on shelter conditions

Mr. Zignago also visited two shelters in Pisco with less than ideal living conditions. Some shelters are better equipped and organized than others.

© UNICEF Peru/2007
Gian Marco Zignago talks to residents of a temporary shelter in Pisco, Peru.

“The major problem is hygiene,” said Mr. Zignago. “How are these families going to live for the foreseeable future in these makeshift shelters without bathrooms or hygienic facilities close by?” 

UNICEF, in coordination with Peru’s Ministry of Health and partners like the Pan American Health Organization, is playing a key role in bringing sanitary facilities to shelters. UNICEF has agreed to supply 50 latrines to the 11 shelters in the Pisco area. UNICEF will also support the digging of two wells to accommodate the latrines.

From fear to healing through play

Through his travels and efforts, Mr. Zignago is raising awareness on the importance of mental health among earthquake victims, especially children.

“Our children are scared and are afraid of what’s going to happen after dark. Some children don’t let their mothers out of their grip and others cry,” said a mother named Gisela who is currently living at a shelter. ”Some say that no one will be able to save them from other earthquakes.”
A network of psychologists, teachers and adolescents are working together to help children find a release from their fears through play. UNICEF has provided hundreds of soccer balls and kite-making kits for children in Pisco and surrounding areas. According to UNICEF officials, recreation is an important part of post-trauma recovery and helps children to transition back to normal life.

At the request of some of the shelter residents, Mr. Zignago happily agreed to sing and play a guitar which someone had managed to save from their destroyed home. 
At the end of his visit, a father came up to thank him, noting it was a boost to their children’s morale.

“Our kids won’t forget this moment, so thank you,” the father said.



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