Sichuan earthquake 3 years on – rebirth, rebuild and renewed hope UNICEF accelerated social policy reforms

 

Sichuan earthquake 3 years on – rebirth, rebuild and renewed hope UNICEF accelerated social policy reforms

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BEIJING/ HONG KONG, 12 May 2011 3 years ago, the massive 8.0-magnitude Wenchuan earthquake struck China’s southwestern Sichuan Province, leaving the area and nearby provinces in destruction. Through UNICEF’s concerted and tireless efforts together with the local government, the affected and local communities, rebirth, reconstruction and renewed hope have come to replace death, destruction and despair brought by the earthquake. Our lessons learnt in this emergency have accelerated the social policy reforms, which has led to enhanced preparedness, greater risk resistance capacity and a better rebuilt future for children and their families.

In the past 3 years, UNICEF has in total provided nearly US$42 million (HK$327.6 million) worth of supplies, technical support and programmes to hundreds of thousands of families throughout the 3 phases of relief, recovery and reconstruction. As a result, lives have now resumed in the affected communities. Critically, the “Building back together” plan, a collaborated project of the government and UNICEF, hasintroduced many of the new concepts and programmes covering issues concerning children and women, which previously had not been fully addressed. More importantly, it has provided practical references for related local and national policy, leading to implications for the wellbeing of children and women on a higher level and at a wider spectrum throughout the country.

UNICEF fully supported and accelerated the social policy reforms by:

  1. Supporting the Ministry of Civil Affairs in developing Working Procedures for Placement and Care of Separated Children in Emergencies and Five-Year Plan on Social Work in Disaster Reconstruction
  2. Supporting the Ministry of Education in issuing and implementing National Management Guideline on Safe School Construction and Management
  3. Contributing to the development of National Guidelines on Emergency Health Relief for Children, ensuring that nutrition considerations will be a central element of future emergency operations
  4. Supporting the Ministry of Health to issue General Standards for Complementary Food Supplements, giving the potential of a scaled-up response of the pilot micronutrient intervention across the country
  5. Supporting the authorities in developing Basic Technical Guidelines on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Emergencies, as well as National guidelines on Emergency Health Relief for Children to educate the communities to improve the hygiene practice

With UNICEF’s advocacy efforts, the newly developed disaster preparedness and response plans and policies now better reflect the needs of children and women. Strong community ownership has been formed around newly constructed water and sanitation facilities and UNICEF-supported Child Friendly Spaces. The capacity of maternal and child health workers, school teachers and principals, and water and sanitation technicians in the earthquake zone is now enhanced. Systems and services for children have also been bettered, while attitudes and behaviours regarding infant and young child nutrition, hygiene and early development have also improved.

“UNICEF would like to recognise the courage of communities, the dedication of partners and the generosity of donors over the last three years. It is because of this courage, dedication and generosity that children, women and communities in the Sichuan earthquake zone and around China are today more resilient and better protected than they were three years ago,” said MsGillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to China.

To date, the Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF has contributed over HK$155 million, amounting to close to half of the entire donation received from around the world for the Sichuan emergency. “Natural disasters are inevitable – It has become more evident as our earth is getting more damaged daily, but UNICEF will always stand ready to respond quickly and effectively in future emergencies, and continually work with partners to protect and promote the rights and wellbeing of the most vulnerable children and women,” said Ms Irene Chan, Chief Executive of HKCU.

As 2011 will be the final year of UNICEF’s reconstruction programmes in the Sichuan earthquake zone, much of the work will focus on evaluation, documentation of best practices and lessons learnt, and sharing of experiences, both domestically and internationally.Strengthened by the experiences gained, UNICEF China office and the Chinese Government are now better equipped with greater capacity and preparedness to overcome unexpected disasters and minimise the risk.

On 12 May 2008, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake broke out in Wenchuan of Sichuan, killing 88,000, injuring 400,000, leaving 5 million homeless and deeply affecting countless lives from various nearby provinces. After the earthquake, the Government of China requested an international assistance and led a remarkable disaster response and relief programme. UNICEF responded in the emergency relief phase by providing emergency health, medical, educational, and water and hygiene supplies. UNICEF also worked with government partners to provide psychosocial support and contribute to the development of China’s post-earthquake reconstruction strategy.

Click here to read Highlights of UNICEF reconstruction efforts for SichuanClick here to read Sichuan Earthquake Three Year Report