World Vision responding to earthquake in China

World Vision is dispatching a team of aid workers from Beijing and other parts of China to quake-stricken Qinghai Province early today, local time.

The team, invited by the government to participate in assessments of the damage, will take hygiene items to the affected region as they seek to assess the full scope of needs. 

Access into hard-hit Yushu County from the provincial capital will be a key challenge for the aid workers, all veterans of China's devastating earthquake in Sichuan two years ago. 

Meimei Leung, who is leading World Vision's assessment team into the affected area, said adequate shelter and warm clothing for children and families was a top priority, as average temperatures in the area have been hovering between -3 to 14 degrees Celsius. 

"Based on what we learn on the ground, we will be moving quickly to meet the needs of children, particularly to help them establish a normal routine again and stay clear of dangerous rubble," said Ms Leung. 

China's Ministry of Civil Affairs says it is planning to send 5,000 tents, 50,000 quilts and 50,000 winter jackets to the affected areas. 

In addition to the hygiene items, the World Vision relief team will take child-friendly kits, with toys and drawing materials for children as their parents struggle to cope in the immediate aftermath. 

World Vision has been building schools in the nearby Sichuan province, the area worst affected by the 2008 quake, carefully adhering to national building standards so that children are safe when they go to school. 

“With this quake there have been a series of aftershocks and this can be very frightening for children. It is important that they seek safety in earthquake proof buildings or open areas, away from hazardous buildings," said Victor Kan, World Vision’s humanitarian emergency director. 

Reports are saying almost 600 people have died and the number is likely to increase as rescue workers begin digging through the rubble. It is estimated that more than 10,000 people have also been injured. 

"The quake struck at 7:49 am local time when most people were asleep, and many were trapped inside damaged buildings," Ms Leung said. 

World Vision first began working in China in 1982, and has reached a total of 2.1 million people affected by the 2008 Sichuan quake, including helping communities rebuild homes, schools and livelihoods. 

World Vision has also provided awareness raising activities for thousands of children and families in China about disaster safety, including earthquake safety, using cartoon books that teach children where to go, what to do and who to contact in order to save lives ahead of a disaster.

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World Vision media contact in Australia: Sacha Myers on 0457 926 018.

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