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China: Working around the clock because children cannot wait

It has been 17 days since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Sichuan province in southwest China.

Seventeen days since the worst-affected children have slept in their own beds, under their own roof, among their toys.

Many children have come a long way in these past 17 days – especially in the most rural and remote areas – as relief arrived gradually due to blocked roads and bad weather conditions.

Frightened and distressed

About 200 people were killed in the quake and two million have been affected.

Thousands of aftershocks have been recorded over the last 13 days, causing many children to be frightened and distressed. Many parents have reported to Save the Children staff that their children have not been eating or sleeping well.

Indeed, children are the most vulnerable in any disaster, as they may not understand what is happening around them and may not know what to do and how to respond.

Children’s day-to-day activities have also changed as many schools still remain shut, leaving children with limited safe space to play among the debris that surround them.

Regaining a sense of normality

Children need to regain a sense of normality, and quickly.

Save the Children has begun distributing toys to children in the worst-affected communities of Ya’an, and it has been extremely heartening to watch children have fun again with sand shovels and buckets, and playing a game of badminton with their friends.

We are also preparing materials to help eight seriously affected schools to set up temporary classrooms.

Plans are also underway to set up safe spaces in communities so children can play, paint, draw and talk through their experiences with a trained adult.

Help on a massive scale

With at least two million people affected, these activities have to be performed at scale.

Many civil society organisations need to be contacted and trained, before they can in turn reach out to their network of local communities, leaders and teachers.

Save the Children is working around the clock to ensure affected children receive the psychological support they need in time to deal with what has happened around them, because children cannot wait.

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