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UN support for Bam reconstruction effort in last one year

Tehran, Dec 21, IRNA -- Immediately after the devastating Bam earthquake on December 26, 2003, United Nations agencies based in the Islamic Republic of Iran and at the request of the government issued a worldwide appeal for help.

The purpose of the appeal was to address the urgent needs of the affected population and to facilitate a smooth transition from the immediate rescue and relief phase to a medium and long-term reconstruction and recovery phase.

The money raised through the UN appeal has been or is being plowed into the reconstruction effort in close cooperation with the government.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Office for Humanitarian Coordination Affairs (OCHA), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and others have all been active in Bam since the earthquake.

Many projects and activities are already underway or in the process of being launched. Those UN gencies have been involved in a wide variety of activities in Bam. Listed below are a few examples:

- Immediately after the earthquake, UNICEF sent two airplanes with more than 60 tons of emergency supplies. In the first two months, the key focus was on survival, health and nutrition, child protection, and education. Now, with 25 technical staff currently working on the ground in Bam, the UNICEF focus is on three key areas: education, water and environmental sanitation and child protection.

The projects they have chosen to support are strategic choices -- from water and sanitation (supplying the pipes for the city's new water supply network) to child protection (psycho-social, family reunification and early child centers), from education (life skills teaching and hygiene education, child friendly school principles and psycho-social counseling) to a Child Friendly Cities initiative (getting children to design their own school, playground, open space etc).

- After the acute disaster phase, WHO started the coordination framework for rehabilitation of the health infrastructure between the government, NGOs and UN agencies for a unified response.

Health maintenance for the people in Bam for the interim period before full reconstruction/rehabilitation has been one of the major challenges for WHO, which has so far been successfully achieved in close collaboration with Iran's Ministry of Health. No epidemics/ disease outbreak after the earthquake has been reported indicating the effectiveness of the surveillance system established soon after the disaster with the assistance of WHO.

WHO has also successfully mobilized funds for equipping the main health facilities in Bam including 12 urban health centers, two polyclinics, a district health network, a district health center and the Behvarz Training Centre among others.

WHO has also initiated a process of making Bam a healthy city with the objective of improving the quality of life for the women and children affected by the disaster.

Immediately after the earthquake, WHO, in addition to deploying health professionals, released emergency funds within hours of the earthquake to purchase medicines and other medical supplies.

- UNDP has been working on restoration of the water supply infrastructure systems for earthquake-affected, smallholder date palm plantations in Bam district, a sustainable housing reconstruction program through community mobilization and participation and supporting a coordinated UN system response to the earthquake and participatory reconstruction planning through a community-based information and communications strategy. It has also provided technical support through specialized workshops, local and international expertise and experience, demonstration projects, advocacy initiatives and training programs.

Further, currently as part of its long-term plans, UNDP has included crisis prevention and recovery as a priority area of action in Iran's Country Programme for 2005 to 2009. The document has three main components: launching an information portal to facilitate access to information on disaster risk management, developing an urban earthquake disaster risk reduction program, and a sub-regional initiative on disaster risk management.

- UNESCO has been coordinating international efforts for rehabilitation of the city's cultural heritage. It has been working closely with the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO).

UNESCO and ICHTO, along with the International Council of Monuments and Sites, organized an international workshop on the recovery of Bam's cultural heritage in April this year.

On December 25, 2004 UNESCO will hold a World Heritage Inscription ceremony at Arg-e Bam, followed by the inauguration of a UNESCO- Ministry of Education Bam Teachers' Research Center (BTRC).

On the same occasion, they will also announce the construction of a model school complex from pre-school to lower secondary in cooperation with the International Federation of Red Cross and CARITAS integrating UNESCO's Inclusive Learning Friendly Environment Initiative.

UNESCO has also been assisting Iranian authorities in the rehabilitation and management of the traditional water irrigation system, qanats, which is part of the heritage of Bam.

- Within three days of the earthquake, WFP provided 144 metric tons of high energy biscuits to cover part of the food requirements of the affected population. These complemented the bread and canned fruit distributed by the Iranian Red Crescent Society.

Subsequently, in the March-April period, WFP provided emergency food assistance to up to 100,000 needy people living in Bam and the surrounding villages.

- OCHA organized a lessons learned workshop as part of its response to the Bam tragedy in April this year followed by an international seminar on policies and practices on earthquake risk management in urban areas in November this year.

- UNIDO is in the process of launching two programs aimed (1) at promoting and developing livelihood development strategies among the affected communities, and (1) at developing entrepreneurial and marketable technical skills through e-learning.

According to the UN Information Center press release which provided the foregoing details of the UN's reconstruction efforts in Bam in the past year, the activities mentioned above are not an exhaustive list of what the different UN agencies are doing in and around Bam. But it gives a good idea of the range of their work.

... Payvand News - 12/21/04 ... --

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