China: 6 months on, United Nations steps up support to Wenchuan survivors

12 November 2008, Beijing - Six months after the Wenchuan earthquake, the UN system in China is continuing efforts to assist affected people in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. The UN's efforts are focused on helping the most vulnerable segments of society benefit from better access to longer-term shelter, sustainable supplies of clean water, adequate health care services, decent employment and quality schooling. UN agencies are also providing expertise in environmental management.

"This period of recovery where people begin to rebuild their lives and communities is crucial. The United Nations is working closely with Government partners at the central and local levels to help people get the support they need," said Bernard Coquelin, UN Resident Coordinator in China ad interim and Representative of the UN Population Fund.

The UN system in China has mobilized over US$ 18 million to assist earthquake survivors this autumn and winter through contributions to the "Appeal for Wenchuan Earthquake Early Recovery Support" from Canada, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Belgium, Finland, the European Union, and Luxembourg.

Earlier in the year, the UN mobilized an additional US$ 18 million in relief assistance including tents, clothing, food, water purification tablets, medicines and emergency lights.

Dr Yin Yin Nwe, Chair of the UN Disaster Management Team in China and Representative of UN Children's Fund stated, "It is important to emphasize that this period of recovery needs to be sustainable. The United Nations is committed to sharing good practices and lessons learned from extensive experience in helping nations and communities recover from natural disasters across the globe."

UN agencies are currently implementing programmes in affected regions including the following:

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is providing 72 prefabricated classrooms for 39 remote primary schools in Gansu to ensure the uninterrupted education of 5,000 school children. The agency is also establishing 40 Child Friendly Spaces in Sichuan to provide psycho-social support, education, recreation, life-skills and child protection services for 10,000 displaced children.

It has provided 84 tons of emergency health and safe childbirth kits to address the needs of 1.4 million people and is providing water and sanitation facilities in schools and resettlement camps.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) launched an Early Recovery Programme that is providing reconstruction support for 19 of the poorest villages in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi. The project will support villagers in improving and integrating recovery plans, with due consideration given to environmental and social needs. The project aims to restore local productivity and livelihoods in the short and long term.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is assisting those who lost their jobs and businesses. ILO is helping to re-establish 1,000 destroyed small businesses and set up 700 new ones. It is estimated that 1.5 million people in Sichuan lost their jobs as a result of the earthquake with unemployment rates in some hard hit areas reaching more than 80%.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in cooperation with the United Kingdom and China's Ministry of Health is sponsoring a large on-going survey aimed at assessing the changing needs of healthcare in the earthquake affected areas. The results of the survey will be used by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and government agencies to develop appropriate policies on medical financial assistance for the poor and disabled. WHO is also providing technical advice on rebuilding the healthcare system in affected counties.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has prepared 48, 500 hygiene kits for women of reproductive ages to be distributed to the earthquake hit areas this month. It is also supporting the Ministry of Health to provide psycho-social support to the most vulnerable including to the elderly. It will host a workshop with Government this month on minimum standards for reproductive health assistance in crisis situations.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is supporting farmers in two villages in Shifang County, Sichuan Province through provisions of seeds and equipment coupled with technical training. The project aims to recover food production for 1,000 farmer households. FAO will also provide assistance to farmers who have lost their livestock.

The UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is organizing training for journalists in Sichuan to analyze local media experiences in reporting on the earthquake and finding the best ways to cover the long-term rehabilitation in the region. UNESCO has helped smaller, local television stations based in areas with large ethnic minority populations recover their broadcasting capacities.