© UNICEF/UN018960/Arcos – The baby girl was named Milagro, meaning miracle in Spanish as she was born only hours before the earthquake struck.
One month after quake, better conditions but persistent needs
NEW YORK/GENEVA/HONG KONG, 16 May 2016 – Up to 100 babies on average are born every day in Esmeraldas and Manabí, the provinces worst hit by the Ecuador earthquake, UNICEF said today.
“In a region where 1 in 5 children suffer from diarrhoea and chronic malnutrition, it is essential to provide these babies with the basic needs to survive and thrive,” said Grant Leaity, UNICEF Representative in Ecuador.
The April 16 earthquake killed 660 people, destroyed water systems and affected 33 health centres, half of which are not operational. The earthquake also damaged or destroyed some 560 schools and close to 10,000 buildings.
An immediate response led by the Government is allowing 75 per cent of children to return to school and providing an integrated response to over 30,000 people living in official shelters, including basic assistance, medical and psychological support. With support from UNICEF, access to safe water was restored in Jama and Pedernales, the two worst hit towns by the earthquake.
However, one month on, thousands more people are staying in informal shelters which lack basic services and 120,000 children are in urgent need of temporary educational spaces.
UNICEF is working with the Government and other partners to assist the most vulnerable populations by:
- With the Ministry of Education, installing temporary learning spaces for 20,000 children and distributing 750 school-in-a-box kits to benefit 60,000 children. The first temporary learning spaces are already open in Pedernales and Jama with capacity to receive 5,600 children, and additional spaces are now being installed in Pedernales, Jama, Matal, Chorerra and Muisne.
- With the National Water Authority and local municipalities, setting up water and sanitation services in shelters for displaced persons and temporary schools, and providing safe water and hygiene services in areas where the water grid has been damaged.
- With the Ministry of Social Inclusion, providing psychosocial support and promoting sports and cultural activities for children and adolescents to contribute to their emotional recovery.
- Supporting the Ministry of Health to establish protocols for acute malnutrition screening; develop community messaging for the prevention of vector-borne diseases such as Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya; provide micronutrients and vitamin A for nutrition, zinc and oral rehydration salts for diahorrea; provide tents to replace damaged health facilities; and provide temporary health posts close to shelters. Baby friendly spaces will also be set up in Pedernales, Jama and Muise.
Yet funding remains extremely low. UNICEF alone will need HK$117 million (US$15 million) to meet the needs of 250,000 children until mid-July. So far, it has received only 15 per cent of this amount.
“If the donor community does not step up its support, we will be failing thousands of children,” Leaity said.