JAKARTA, INDONESIA, 5 October 2009 – Less than one week after a major earthquake devastated the Indonesian province of West Sumatra, nearly 70,000 children have returned to classes in the city of Padang
according to local education authorities, as UNICEF rushed school supplies to the region.
Following a call by the Governor of Padang for children to try and go back to school wherever possible, UNICEF rapidly erected the first of a planned 250 classroom tents to provide temporary learning areas in the city; early on Monday morning, local education officials reported that just over 68,000 children – 40 per cent of students – had gone back to classes in Padang city, with more expected to follow across the region in the coming days.
“This is an important sign that life will return to normal for children affected by this tragedy,” said UNICEF Country Representative in Indonesia, Angela Kearney.
“Many children I have met amidst the shattered buildings of Padang expressed their fears for the future – they are worried about more shocks, about losing their homes, and about never going back to school again,” added Ms. Kearney. “Today, children can see that schools will re-open, and that they will be able to continue their learning. It’s a first step towards bringing the comfort and reassurance that these children so desperately need.”
UNICEF is providing 250 school tents as part of its initial support to re-starting education, along with school materials and recreational equipment. In addition, in an effort to prevent possible disease outbreaks, the first water storage bladders have been set up in areas affected by the earthquake, along with jerry cans and hygiene kits. In total, UNICEF is aiming to provide immediate life-saving supplies for up to 50,000 families.
According to initial government estimates, Wednesday’s earthquake, which measured 7.6 on the Richter-scale, left over 700 people dead and forced tens of thousands of people to leave their homes in the coastal provincial capital of Padang and surrounding highlands. Access to some affected communities remains difficult due to damage to roads and bridges.