- The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has launched an emergency appeal to donors for relief supplies for victims of the massive earthquake that struck Algeria last week, killing more than 2,000 people and injuring 9,000 others.
UNICEF had already sent a first consignment of emergency supplies on Saturday, the UN reports. The 15-ton consignment, valued at US$ 120,000, included four emergency health kits, five field hospital tents, obstetric kits, recreation kits and baby blankets, covering basic emergency medical needs for a population of 40,000 for three months.
- This was only a first reaction, said the UNICEF Representative in Algeria, Kiari Liman-Tinguiri. "We do believe that the children of the area will require further support for weeks, maybe months," he added.
The flash appeal for US$ 240,000 is to fund the procurement of additional supplies to tackle existing needs, including family and infant hygiene kits, oral rehydration salts, first-aid kits, water purification units and chemicals, water storage equipment, additional recreation kits and sport items for children.
- There is an overwhelming need for temporary shelter for families whose homes have been destroyed and for those unable to return to their homes, Mr Liman-Tinguiri said. "Lack of alternative accommodation or tents has forced most of the affected population to stay outside their homes in makeshift tents, while hundred of families simply sleep outside."
Health services have been severely affected as infrastructure and equipment was damaged or destroyed, the UN reports. In Thenia, the city hospital was hard hit by the earthquake, which left 80 percent of the hospital wards destroyed or unusable, including the emergency ward and other key wards such as the surgery block, the maternity and paediatric wards.
According to the UNICEF staff in Algeria, another serious problem is the damage to water and sanitation networks, as well as limited electricity provision.
An earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter Scale struck northern Algeria on 21 May, 2003. This is the biggest earthquake to hit North African countries since 1980 and shocks were felt on the Spanish Mediterranean coast. The epicentre was located at Thenia, about 60 kilometres east of Algiers, near the industrial city of Rouiba.
The first earthquake was followed by three further quakes all registering over 5.0 on the Richter Scale, and in heavily populated areas. The worst affected areas were the district of Bourmerdes. Also the capital, Algiers, was heavily affected.
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