Malawi

UNICEF starts handing out relief supplies in quake-affected Malawi

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United Nations aid agencies have begun distributing relief supplies in northern Malawi, where a series of earthquakes this month have killed four people, injured more than 300 others and destroyed or damaged nearly 4,000 homes.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has given out at least 2,200 "survival kits," containing blankets, mosquito nets, cooking pots, soap, a jerry can and other basic items, to people whose homes are no longer habitable.

UNICEF has also issued plastic sheeting, buckets, chlorine and other water purification materials, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The Karonga district of northern Malawi has endured a succession of strong earthquakes between 6 December and 20 December, with the tremors ranging in strength from 5.4 to 6.0 on the Richter scale. Seismological activity is continuing in the area, OCHA reported.

The strongest quake struck in the middle of the night on 20 December, causing severe damage to the town of Karonga. Many residents were sleeping indoors because of seasonal rains and were injured by falling debris from their homes.

Malawian disaster management officials estimate that nearly 5,000 people have been affected by the quakes and the Government has declared a national emergency.

A joint technical mission comprising staff from UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) headed today for Karonga to assess the humanitarian needs, particularly in health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education, and food security.

UN aid agencies say they are working closely with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Government officials as well to coordinate the relief response.