PANAMA CITY, 18 February 2005 - More than 350,000 people have been affected by torrential rains and floodwaters in Guyana, Venezuela and Colombia. Guyana was the worst hit with almost 40% of its population being affected by last weeks floods.
Nils Kastberg, Regional Director for UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean Office arrived at Georgetown, to appraise the area personally and offer support to the Guyana Government. At the same time he is appealing to the international community to help more than 290,000 people affected, a third of them being children. “The water supply, the primary health attention and the return of children to schools are the main issues in which UNICEF is working in partnership with others United Nations agencies” said Kastberg during his visit to UNICEF’s projects in Georgetown.
In Guyana more than 80,000 children and adolescents have not been able to attend classes since the beginning of the floods - - most of the shelters are set up in school buildings. It is therefore critical that alternative sites be found to enable children to go back to school. UNICEF is providing essential cleaning materials for 170 schools in partnership with the Ministry of Education, this is crucial to ensure children’s access to education and resume a sense of normalcy in their lives. Throughout the Ministry of Health in Guyana UNICEF has provided 15,000 oral rehydration salt sachets, 40 large water containers and more than 3,000 blankets to equip the shelters.
Heavy rains and floods affected other countries in the region. In Venezuela it is estimate that more than 120,000 children have been affected by the emergency in Vargas, Carabobo, Falcon, Miranda, Mérida, Tachira, Trujillo, Yaracuy, Zulia, Aragua and Caracas C.D. UNICEF in coordination with the Emergencies Committee provided 10,000 water purification and basic supplies as well as the development of a community-based awareness campaign on hygiene practices and sanitation as well as prevention. UNICEF is also training volunteers on psyco-social support and, in coordination with the Ministry of Interior and Justice is offering a course on children rights on emergency situations for the Civil Protection personal.
Colombia suffered a similar emergency situation caused by torrential rains and floods, in six states the dead toll amounts to 40 people, and more than 30,000 affected. It is estimate that some 11,000 children are living in vulnerable situation. The states of Santander, North Santander, and Tolima, has been the worst affected, there are fears of further floods in the area since more rain is on the way according to the meteorological predictions. UNICEF is assessing the damages and the cooperation needs in coordination with United Nations agencies and the offices in charge for Disasters' Prevention.
*** For more information, please contact:
María Blanco, UNICEF Regional Office for the Ameritas and the Caribbean. Tel. (507) 315 74 85. Email: email@example.com
Guyana: Leslyn Thompson, UNICEF Communication Officer in Guyana. Tel. (592) 226 7083. Cel. (592) 623 7518. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Venezuela: Bernardo Pisani, UNICEF Communication Officer in Venezuela Tel: (58) 212 248.56.48/ Cel: (0412)249.40.77 E-mail: email@example.com