26 May 2008 Responding to a request by the Chinese government for medical support in wake of the massive 12 May earthquake which struck the East Asian's south-west, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) is sending urgently needed supplies and support.
The devastating magnitude 8.0 tremors had their epicentre in Sichuan province has claimed over 65,000 lives, according to state media reports.
“WHO will strengthen China's power to reduce the risks of epidemic outbreaks and to treat any cases of communicable diseases that appear,” said Eric Laroche, Assistant Director-General for WHO's Health Action in Crises cluster. “Damaged health facilities must start treating survivors as quickly as possible for injuries, potential diarrhoeal diseases and acute respiratory infections and psychosocial trauma.”
The agency has received $1.3 million out of the $8 million in relief grants contributed by the UN through its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
The funds will be used for purchasing and distributing surgical supplies and medicines to treat hundreds of thousands of people; preventing and controlling epidemics and communicable diseases; and restoring health and medical facilities through provision of essential medicines and supplies for primary healthcare and immunization services.
Some UN Volunteers (UNV) are en route to Sichuan province to contribute to the medical relief effort in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Liu Hai and Gao Wei, originally serving with the Beijing Youth League on a UNV and UN Development Programme (UNDP) for the upcoming Beijing Olympics were selected to participate in a relief mission. Ms. Liu will have a communications role while Mr. Gao will work in equipment supply.
Meanwhile, Liu Lei was the only UNV volunteer serving in the area, working on a wetland biodiversity conservation project for UNDP's Global Environment Facility (UNDP-GEF), when it was hit by the tremors, and is now serving as a volunteer field interpreter for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
In his diary tracking his efforts in the Mian Yang area, he wrote that “guaranteeing homeless people's health is one of the most important aspects of the aid operation, as well as providing other basic support.”
On Saturday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited one of the hardest-hit towns, pledging the United Nations' support for the East Asian nation and expressing his condolences to the Chinese people.
"My heart is filled with great sadness by what has happened to the Chinese people. It is a great natural tragedy," Mr. Ban told reporters in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, after stopping in the town of Yingxiu.
"At the same time I'm moved by such strong leadership [as] demonstrated by the Chinese Government leaders, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, and all the people who have shown such a great spirit of self-help and cooperation and resilience to overcome this natural disaster,” he added.
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