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UNICEF Announces Recovery Plan for Pakistan Earthquake Zone


U.N. Children's Fund says it will spend $150 million to reconstruct hundreds of schools and rural health centers in areas devastated by the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. UNICEF says it will take about two years for this recovery plan to be realized.

Pakistan's earthquake killed more than 70,000 people and left another 3.5 million homeless. Almost 10,000 schools were damaged or destroyed. Hospitals, roads, water systems, telecommunications and other infrastructure were knocked out.

The United Nations figures it will take at least a decade to fully reconstruct the earthquake zone.

The U.N. Children's Fund is one of several U.N. agencies participating in Pakistan's recovery effort. UNICEF says it will focus on education and the restoration of public health facilities. It says plans are under way to construct 500 earthquake-resistant schools, 70 rural health centers and 1,000 water supply systems.

UNICEF Spokesman, Damien Personnaz, says the agency will seize this opportunity to build schools in places where none existed before.

"Some of the areas there are basically stuck during the winter. It is extremely difficult for young kids to go from their home to the school during the day," he said. "So they need to have a kind of semi-boarding schools and that is also something where UNICEF would like to work on. It poses some problems in terms of logistics. The main aim is to bring the schools where the people are and not the opposite."

UNICEF says it has extensive plans to raise the level and extent of education, health care and hygiene awareness. It plans to provide clean water and sanitation.

Personnaz says UNICEF expects the schools and health facilities that will be built in remote villages to become centers where a number of important activities will be provided.

"They can go to these specific health centers to get all kinds of immunization activities," added Personnaz. "They also can be trained. They also can get some school supplies. They also can get some basic medicines. It is very important for the local community, for the lives of these remote villages to know that there is a place where you can get a lot of basic social services."

Personnaz says training will be provided to around 20,000 teachers and 4,000 community health workers, including women health workers. He says this is particularly important because many women will not go to men with their health problems.

He says UNICEF aims to have about 500,000 children enrolled in primary school by mid-2008. He says this will include all the children who went to school before the earthquake struck, plus an additional 30 percent of children who never attended school. He says a big effort will be made to get girls enrolled.