The UN Children’s Fund is mobilizing to send urgently needed relief supplies for children affected by the massive 7.1 magnitude earthquake in China’s remote west.
The most urgent humanitarian needs right now are for food, water, tents, shelter, clothes, blankets, quilts, essential household items, medical supplies and rescue equipment. At this time of year in this mountainous region temperatures reach below freezing overnight. UNICEF has emergency stocks of school tents, children’s winter clothes and blankets on hand and ready to be dispatched.
UNICEF Representative and UN Disaster Management Team Chair in China, Dr. Yin Yin New, says that assistance is being organized to support the Chinese government’s disaster response with a focus on the special needs of children and women.
"We are in constant consultation with our government partners to gather necessary information and it appears that there has been extensive destruction to homes, health facilities and schools.”
The emergency response will be coordinated with other UN agencies. The quake heavily damaged parts of remote Yushu Prefecture – a region mostly populated by Tibetan herdsmen – in Qinghai province. The quake destroyed much of Jiegu (population 100,000), the main town of Yushu Prefecture.
As of this writing more than 600 deaths have been reported along with over 9,000 injuries. Some 313 persons are missing and 100,000 are without shelter. On Wednesday night large numbers of Jiegu residents slept outside in sub-zero temperatures. The total population of Yushu Prefecture is 357,000 and the child population is 122,700.
According to Qinghai health authorities the maternal and child health hospital in Yushu County totally collapsed in the earthquake. There is an urgent need for medical supplies and childbirth equipment.
According to local education bureau officials 80 per cent of primary schools and 50 per cent of secondary schools in Yushu have been severely damaged affecting 22,719 students and 1,086 teachers. Although the quake struck before the start of classes on Wednesday morning, about half of the students in the sparsely populated region attend boarding schools. Authorities have requested UNICEF support to provide school tents, warm clothing, quilts and learning kits.
According to initial reports, more than 50 students and five teachers were killed in the quake. Many more students are missing and thought to be buried. Complete information is still difficult to obtain in the remote mountainous area on the border between Qinghai Province and Tibet.