Fiji Floods: UNICEF and partners urgently responding to water, health and education needs
SUVA, 9 April 2012 - Over 14,000 thousand people, including 5,000 children, have been displaced from their homes due to flooding in the Western and Central Divisions of Fiji. These families are sheltering in over 200 evacuation centres and many lack regular access to water, food and essential items. Water and electricity shortages across the Western Division are creating a potentially dangerous situation for thousands more.
UNICEF is especially concerned over access to clean water for both drinking and bathing. Leptospirosis, diarrhea and typhoid are a real threat in the flood-affected areas. Water is being delivered by trucks to evacuation centers and communities – however, due to damaged roads not all areas can be reached regularly. For those who do have access to water, proper filtering and storage of water is essential.
In response, UNICEF with the Fiji Red Cross is distributing water and sanitation kits to families in need in the Western Division. Each kit contains water containers, purification tablets and soap to safely store and prepare clean drinking water and to support adequate hygiene. One thousand family kits are being distributed over the weekend, and more are on the way. UNICEF is also helping partners prepare for any eventual disease outbreak through the provision of essential health supplies.
According to UNICEF Pacific Representative, Dr. Isiye Ndombi, preparedness is the key. “It is essential that we work proactively to prevent disease outbreaks in flood-affected areas. Diarrhea, leptospirosis and typhoid can be fatal, especially so for children. We need to make sure that families are aware of the risks and how to address them, and are supported with access to water and sanitation.”
Nutrition for children is also a concern. “Providing mothers of infants with a safe space and the support to breastfeed is the simplest and best way we can protect our youngest children, particularly when hygiene and water is a challenge.” UNICEF is advising that food supplied to families in need should contain a balance of protein, from fish and dhal, as well as starchy basics such as noodles, rice and biscuits. Mothers of infants are encouraged to continue to exclusively breastfeed their newborn children. Over the long term, families who have lost crops and incomes should be supported to ensure that children’s health and well-being is not compromised.
With schools in the Western Division due to reopen on 10 April, UNICEF is also working with partners to get flood-affected schools re-equipped in time. Through ‘school in a box’ and recreation and early childhood kits, UNICEF is supporting classes to welcome back children whose lives have been devastated by the floods.