32,000 miss school in quake-hit region

KIGALI - At least 30,000 pupils and 2,000 secondary school students in areas affected by the February 3 powerful earthquake are yet to start school, a month into the new academic year, the UN has said. The earthquake, which struck the western districts of Nyamasheke and Rusizi, killed 38 people and injured about 643 others.

KIGALI - At least 30,000 pupils and 2,000 secondary school students in areas affected by the February 3 powerful earthquake are yet to start school, a month into the new academic year, the UN has said. The earthquake, which struck the western districts of Nyamasheke and Rusizi, killed 38 people and injured about 643 others.

However, UN agencies working jointly in a new and more coordinated framework known as “One UN – Delivering as One”, say they are working closely with the government to return the children to school and address other
emergency needs.

“While the psychological stress experienced is difficult to assess, the UN and other partners are working with the Government to ensure a quick return to school in a safer environment for the children,” UNICEF Representative, Dr. Joseph Foumbi, said.

This comes as another quake struck the same region in the wee hours of Thursday (yesterday) morning, with reports indicating that at least one person died.

In a statement issued on February 13, the UN agencies in Rwanda said they have joined forces to assist in providing the immediate needs in the aftermath of the earthquake, which also destroyed 1,201 family houses, 20 schools (212 classrooms), 36 churches and one hospital. ‘The UN responded immediately by supplying tents, plastic sheeting, medicines and family kits. We’re now preparing for further support for water purification, medicines, family kits and temporary shelter for affected families, school children and hospital patients,’ the statement quotes the UN Resident Coordinator Moustapha Soumaré, as saying.

The world body noted that on Monday the government sent a ministerial team to the area for an assessment and to quickly establish an assistance mechanism. ‘The UN Country Team joined the Government mission to assess best ways for UN support. The UN is well equipped to assist the Government in responding to this emergency situation,’ Soumaré added. ‘Working to deliver as One helps us quickly design a support package based on each of the agencies comparative advantage.’

The UN says it is important that after the quick assessment of needs and response, its agencies and partners “assist in organising a deeper assessment to identify areas and people with specific needs, find out additional risk such as emergent epidemic prone diseases due to the earthquake,” according to Dr Mamadou Malifa Balde, the Officer in charge of WHO, said.

 He said this would be done through strengthening the surveillance system and support in the elaboration of an advocacy document for the immediate, middle and long term period. And the WFP Representative, Maarit Hirvonen, said: “In any emergency situation, children and women bear the blunt of the impact. It is important to respond to immediate needs of health and shelter.”

“No urgent food needs have been identified. However, many families have lost their houses and people are injured, which hampers their livelihoods and coping mechanisms in a longer run. This is why the UN will field a mission for livelihoods assessment together with the Red Cross to respond, if so needed, to increased food insecurity at household level’, she added.

Soumaré noted: “As a team we can react in a coordinated way with each UN agency contributing according to its mandate.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Bernard Makuza said that the February 3 earthquake had caused losses of up to Frw5 billion, and called on the general public to give their support to the victims of the disaster.

The national disaster preparedness unit, working under the Prime Minister’s Office, opened a bank account number 1201293 in the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR), on which members of the public can contribute financial assistance to disaster victims. 
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