World Vision prioritises needs of children following China quake

By agency reporter
22 May 2008

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Christian development agency World Vision says that it is prioritising children in the aftermath of the earthquake in China.

More than 4.8 million people were made homeless after the earthquake destroyed homes and flattened schools, shattering the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in south-western Sichuan.

Children made homeless after natural disasters are particularly vulnerable, says the agency and their ability to survive requires access to basic supplies like shelter, food and water.

Without shelter, children are also at risk of physical harm and lack a safe place to deal with psychosocial issues that result from the distress and grief of losing loved ones. Children are also at risk of being split up from their family or care givers and it can take weeks to reunite them, further exacerbating a child's sense of distress.

World Vision is working to make sure families have shelter in safe environments where they can be together. 800 tents and 6,000 plastic tarps are being distributed to more than 27,000 survivors. Distribution of these materials has already started.

"When an earthquake strikes everything becomes chaotic," said Humanitarian Emergency Assistance Director Victor Kan. "In Sichuan people were terrified when violent shaking caused buildings to fall and roads to split wide open," he continued.

The earthquake struck in the middle of the day, affecting a disproportionately large number of children. Schools across the province crumbled under the thrust of the tremors while children were still in their classrooms.

"Children feel a high sense of anxiety when they are separated from their family," said Mr. Kan. "Townships were completely flattened, debris and rubble stretched out for miles. Landslides blocked the roads and cracks in the earth made it difficult for families to travel to reunite with each other," he continued.

"The well-being of children must be attended to," Mr. Kan went on. "The first step is to provide shelter, food and safe drinking water. The next course of action is to offer children a safe place to play, a place where they can communicate their feelings and deal with the stress of the traumatic events they've just experienced."

World Vision plans to set up three Child Friendly Spaces for children living in temporary shelter sites. The centres will run activities and games and offer children a chance to foster social connections, while normalizing their daily routine.

World Vision is also distributing basic emergency supplies including 464,000 kg of rice. In addition, some 30,000 quilts will be distributed to survivors struggling to cope with cold mountain temperatures that accompany evenings in Sichuan.

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