On 21 September 2009, Bhutan was hit by an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter Scale. The epicentre of the earthquake was in East Bhutan and affected 10 neighbouring districts. As well as damaging around 4,000 homes the earthquake damaged over 100 schools, affecting about 14,000 schoolchildren. The earthquake caused structural damage to classrooms, and water and sanitation facilities were destroyed.
Australia has contributed $1.3 million to UNICEF, working in partnership with the Royal Government of Bhutan, to reconstruct classrooms and sanitation facilities and restore water supply to schools affected by the earthquake. Education in hygiene and disaster preparedness is also an important part of Australia’s response to natural disasters.
Australia’s support is helping to:
- reconstruct sanitation facilities and water supply schemes in 40 schools
- reconstruct 13 community primary schools in the affected districts of Mongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Pemagatshel and Lhuentse
- train 100 caretakers to operate and maintain water and sanitation facilities and 100 school health workers to conduct health and hygiene sessions in their schools, and
- train principals and teachers in all 20 districts of Bhutan on Education in Emergencies for disaster preparedness and risk reduction.
Safer schools and access to sanitation facilities will mean that children can continue their education in a safe environment.