UNICEF says it will intensify and accelerate efforts to help children and parents affected by Saturday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake in China that killed at least 190 and wounded more than 12,000.

China quickly went into disaster-response mode after the weekend quake, with tent villages housing survivors and medical clinics springing up in the affected area of mountainous Sichuan province.

'Our thoughts should focus first and foremost on children whose lives have been torn apart. They need our urgent and intelligent support ….' —Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF's China representative

In a release, UNICEF says it believes 26,000 children in Lushan County alone were seriously affected by the quake, noting that government rescue teams only recently reached remote communities.

UNICEF says it is completing plans with government partners to intensify and accelerate efforts in child protection and welfare, mother and baby health, young child nutrition, hygiene and sanitation. The United Nations agency says that according to 2010 census data, 26,000 children aged 0 to 17 live in Lushan County.

On Monday, with support from its Hong Kong Committee, UNICEF allocated $75,000 US for emergency obstetric and neonatal health equipment for local health facilities.

Canadian citizens in the Chinese regions affected by Saturday's quake and who require emergency consular assistance can take these steps:

  • Call the Consulate General of Canada in Chongqing at +86-23-6373-8007.
  • Call Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada's Emergency Operations Centre collect at +1-613-996-8885.
  • Send email to sos@international.gc.ca.

"Some of the communities damaged by Saturday’s 7.0 earthquake were also affected by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake," the release says. "It is thought that young children may be reliving the trauma of five years ago all over again."

The 7.9-magnitude quake five years ago that struck southwestern China is believed to have killed more than 10,000 people.  In one of the worst-hit areas of Sichuan — Beichuan county — an estimated 80 per cent of buildings were reduced to rubble.

Following Saturday's disaster, the Chinese government launched "a very impressive effort to provide for the most urgent needs in response to a very powerful earthquake," said Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF's China representative.

"Our thoughts should focus first and foremost on children whose lives have been torn apart. They need our urgent and intelligent support in order to bounce back from the trauma they have experienced."

UNICEF says it is working with the State Council National Working Committee on Children and Women (NWCCW) to strengthen child-first spaces (CFS) already operating near the epicentre of the earthquake. It will also support mobile child welfare outreach teams in surrounding communities to help connect vulnerable children with available services, the release says.


Medical workers take care of a newborn boy in a tent functioning as a temporary hospital in quake-hit Taiping Township of Lushan, southwest China's Sichuan province, on Tuesday. (Xinhua, Chen Cheng/Associated Press)

After the 2008 earthquake, UNICEF and NWCCW set up 40 CFS throughout the earthquake zone, including two in Lushan County, it adds.

In consultation with government partners, UNICEF is also readying support for mother and baby health services in 34 local health facilities, measles-mumps-rubella and hepatitis immunization campaigns, infant and young child feeding assistance, hygiene kits and mobile latrines.