Sabnan's story: Support for the most vulnerable in Pakistan quake aftermath

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By Antonia Paradela

BALOCHISTAN, Pakistan, 31 October 2008 - Sabnan Guldin, 3, is trying to bite an apple but suddenly looks up in fear as strangers enter the family compound. He is sitting on a mat in an area cleared of rubble where his family's home collapsed in the earthquake that struck Balochistan province, south-western Pakistan, on 29 October.

Almost all of the 30 members of Sabnan's extended family managed to escape unharmed, although one died. But since then, they have been sleeping in the open, near the ruins of their home, in freezing night time temperatures.

The small villages here in the fertile valley of Ziarat have seen major damage. In some of them, not a single building has survived. In the village of Waham, every family in a population of 1,200 people has reportedly lost a loved one.

Homeless and vulnerable children

According to government estimates, about 108,000 people have been affected and more that 15,000 houses were destroyed by the earthquake. More than half of those made homeless are children.

Even in normal times, the children of Balochistan are also amongst Pakistan's most vulnerable. One out of 10 infants dies before his or her first birthday. Forty per cent of children under five are underweight. Maternal mortality is twice the country's average.

UNICEF and its partners are working to ensure that quake-affected children have access to safe water, essential relief supplies and health care, as well as protection from abuse or exploitation.

Safe water and relief supplies

Since the day of the earthquake, UNICEF has been providing safe drinking water for about 12,000 people in the worst affected district, Ziarat, at the request of the provincial government. Sabnan and the children of his village have received warm clothing distributed by UNICEF to 100 families.

UNICEF is also providing four emergency health kits and other relief supplies to meet the urgent needs of children and their families. To provide relief to malnourished children and pregnant and lactating women, UNICEF has delivered 50 tonnes of UNIMIX, a nutritious food supplement.

In addition, the organization will assist with the reopening of schools and provision of school supplies.

'The chance to rebuild'

"We are also working to make sure that vulnerable groups such as separated and orphaned children, as well as female-headed households, have access to relief and services," said the Chief of UNICEF Field Office in Balochistan, Judith Bruno.

"We are coordinating closely with the government and other partners to ensure than children like Sabnan and their families have the chance to rebuild their lives after the disaster," she added.