United Nations assists China after lethal earthquake

News and Press Release
Originally published
(New York: 5 March 2003) The United Nations and its humanitarian partners are lending China assistance after a powerful earthquake in that country killed more than 250 people and left 3,000 without housing in winter conditions on 24 February. The earthquake affected a total of 510,000 people and injured some 4,000 people, 2,058 of them seriously. 70,000 housing units and 103 schools collapsed as a result of the earthquake and its tremors.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is providing an Emergency Grant of USD 50,000 drawn from its own resources as well as from funds pre-positioned by the Government of Norway. OCHA is also prepared to serve as a channel for cash contributions to be used for immediate relief assistance, in coordination with relevant organizations in the United Nations system. UNICEF has sent an assessment team to the affected area. In addition, the Hong Kong UNICEF Committee has donated HK$ 2 million (USD 256,739).

The Chinese Government welcomes assistance from the international community, although most immediate needs have been met. The government has provided 450 tons of wheat flour, 352 tons of instant food, 120,000 bottles of mineral water as well as water tanks, 46,000 articles of clothing and blankets. The central government has allocated CNY 11 million (USD 1,330,752), while local governments have mobilized about CNY 20 million (USD 2,419,550) for the relief operations. The government has also sent 17,000 tents to the area for temporary shelter. The National Red Cross acted immediately and provided 2,000 quilts, 1,000 coats and 10 tons of wheat flour to the victims. It has launched a national appeal, and has already received about CNY 7 million (USD 846,842).

The main remaining problem is the reconstruction of houses, clinics and schools, which will continue until June/July 2003. The local government has a rehabilitation plan but is short of funding.

According to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), local health clinics have requested medical supplies in the affected area. More food assistance will be needed because many families lost their food reserves. The absence of safe drinking water sources may increase the risk of water related diseases. Snowfall and low temperatures in the last two days have made the situation more difficult for people without adequate shelter. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) reports that although most people in Jiashi County were well prepared for earthquakes, big tents are needed for schools.

Donors have been generous with bilateral contributions. The Government of Japan has provided aid of about JPY 30 million (USD 254,237), consisting of an emergency grant of USD 150,000 dollars and an in-kind contribution of 40 tents, 1,200 blankets, 3 portable water tanks, 5 electricity generators and 5 reels of electric cord. The US Embassy has donated USD 100,000 to the Red Cross.

A detailed situation report, together with information on other ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at

For further information, please contact

New York: Brian Grogan (212) 963-1143
Geneva: Elizabeth Byrs 41 22 917 2653

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit