UNICEF concerned about emotional distress of children
Child- friendly spaces set up in camps sheltering people affected by Cyclone Nargis
NEW YORK/BANGKOK, 12 May 2008 - UNICEF is setting up child-friendly spaces in camps giving shelter to people affected by Cyclone Nargis. These spaces offer care and protection for children and young people especially those who have lost or been separated from their families. Just in Laputta Township in the Irrawaddy Delta, UNICEF is currently trying to identify the parents of 24 children sheltering with people they do not know.
The child-friendly spaces can also serve as makeshift schools while UNICEF works towards getting children back to school in time for the opening of the school year on June 1. In addition, UNICEF has ordered large quantities of "schools-in-a-backpack", a more mobile version of the "school-in-a-box" kit used in emergency situations around the world.
"In any situation where you have children living under extremely stressful conditions, both physically and emotionally, it is important for their welfare that they are provided with a space where they feel safe and provided for - where they can begin to return a little bit to normal life" said Ramesh Shrestha, UNICEF Representative in Myanmar.
According to UNICEF, up to 90 per cent of the schools in the affected areas have been damaged to some degree. This adds up to some 3,000 primary schools and more than 500,000 pupils. UNICEF will set up safe learning spaces with tents and provide essential learning packages for the children who have no school to go to.
Since the cyclone hit on May 3, UNICEF has been distributing food, water, medicines and shelter equipment. In the wake of the disaster, lack of access to clean water and poor sanitation, inadequate shelter and poor nutrition pose particular threats to children. This leads to an increased risk of diarrhea which can be deadly to children living in precarious conditions such as these. Flooding can also be a source of mosquito breeding and can lead to outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever, which are endemic in Myanmar. UNICEF water and sanitation experts are also concerned that the breakdown in the power supplies and sanitation systems may lead to a high risk of infections and water-borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery.
UNICEF has 130 staff in country, 9 zonal offices and a headquarter office in Yangon.