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UN Steps up Support to Wenchuan Recovery

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The "National Overall Planning for Post-Wenchuan Earthquake Restoration and Reconstruction" launched a year ago has brought forth a response of effective solidarity from Government, civil society and citizens of this country. The United Nations is also proud to have played a modest but substantive role in "Building Back Better." In response to the devastating Wenchuan earthquake, the UN System in China mobilized more than US$70 million for emergency relief, early recovery and reconstruction to assist people and affected communities in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. Among these funds were donations from international donors who responded to the UN Appeal for early recovery support. As a way to mark the anniversary of the Appeal, the UN Disaster Management Team in China held an event on the 14th of September to mark the anniversary of the launch of the Appeal and to inform the international community on the overall progress and achievements that have been made.

"We are very grateful for the contributions from the donor countries, international organizations and the private sector, which joined forces with the UN on recovery support. With these generous contributions, the UN has been assisting the government of China in getting the communities back on their feet, with a focus on the needs of the most vulnerable groups in the reconstruction process," said Khalid Malik, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in China.

Of the total of US$70 million to that UN in China has mobilized, more than US$19 million are through contributions to the "Appeal for Wenchuan Earthquake Early Recovery Support" from the international community, including the governments of Andorra, Belgium, Canada (CIDA), Finland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Monaco, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, UK (DFID), the US Red Cross, international foundations and UNICEF committees in Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, UK, USA, Sweden, as well as multinational and Chinese corporations.

Mr. Zhang Kening, DG-Counselor of MOFCOM, expressed appreciation for international support to Wenchuan earthquake response and recovery. "China will continue to fulfill its roles and responsibilities in the global response to future challenges. As a long-standing partner of UN, we will keep exploring further cooperation, exchange and communication with the international community." Mr. Fei Zhirong, DDG of NDRC in his briefing on overall recovery and reconstruction progress, highlighted the achievements but also recognized challenges ahead. He pointed out that much remained to be done, and called for the continued attention and support of international partners in the long-term rehabilitation process.

Dr Yin Yin Nwe, Chair of the UN Disaster Management Team in China and Representative of UN Children's Fund stated, "Overall, international assistance provided material and technical support to the Government and affected communities, in key areas such as rebuilding sustainable housing and settlements; restoring jobs and livelihoods; helping to meet the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable; and restoring social services and ensuring social cohesion."

To date, UN agencies have used some US$45 million for programmes in earthquake affected areas. The following is a brief summary of key results:

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been supporting restoration of agriculture and livelihoods of farming households in five worst-affected counties in Sichuan. To date, over 9,861 households in 26 villages and 10 townships have received assistance from FAO. .

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is assisting those who lost their jobs and businesses. A total of 2,478 entrepreneurs and people affected by the earthquake received assistance to start up or improve their businesses.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has supported the capacity development of local NGO practitioners working in health system in Sichuan to improve their response in emergencies.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has been supporting community-based integrated rural recovery planning in some 20 poor villages, providing livelihood and skill building support to over 6,000 households and 4,000 workers, including for energy-saving and environmentally-friendly reconstruction.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) are providing technical assistance on environmental management and hazardous waste management, in particular risk assessments on post-earthquake landslide and hazardous waste and a joint project that addresses contamination and medical waste management.

The UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has supported capacity building for ethnic minority TV and radio stations, disaster preparedness training for local journalists and measures to rehabilitate quake-affected World Heritage sites. International guidelines and experiences, such as those for education in emergencies have been introduced and adapted.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is strengthening national and local capacities for reproductive health interventions, as well as psychosocial support. The Minimum Initial Service Package for Reproductive Health in crisis (MISP) was introduced into China for the first time.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provided more than 80,000 schoolchildren and teachers with learning-teaching materials; 70,000 children and parents with psychosocial assistance; medicines and equipment sufficient to cover 5 million people; 260,000 mothers and pregnant women with health education; some 2 million people with water, sanitation and hygiene assistance, and improved immunization registration systems for about 770,000 young children. Contributions were also made to China’s reconstruction strategy through studies in cooperation with NDRC and Ministry of Finance.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has helped to restore essential medical functions of local hospitals and community health centers by providing life-saving medical equipment and conducting capacity development activities. More than 600 local doctors and 270 nurses were trained in emergency and metal health care, and over 140 teachers and student volunteers received training in psychosocial support. WHO/UNICEF joint Measles Initiative was provided to affected provinces, and technical advice on healthcare waste management, food safety and drinking water monitoring, outbreak surveillance and disaster mitigation were provided and incorporated through the "Safe Hospital" initiatives.

(China Development Gateway September 17, 2009)