|© UNICEF Tajikistan|
|Children at the Kabadiyon boarding school in Tajikistan are among the country’s most vulnerable. Many of the orphanages and state wards were without heat for more than a month.|
By Elizabeth Kiem
NEW YORK, USA, 13 March 2008 – Two months after severe temperatures left the mountainous country of Tajikistan in deep freeze and without power, warmer temperatures are bringing a new set of dangers.
Heavy snowfall left from the harshest winter in 30 years has given way to mudslides and avalanches, cutting off critical access roads and supply routes. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health warns that damage done to water and sewage systems during the long electrical outage has resulted in a worsening epidemiological crisis, including outbreaks of typhoid.
In the capital, Dushanbe, heating and electricity have been restored, but in the higher altitudes, extreme cold and power outages prevail. Moreover, expectations of flooding and mudslides are additional stresses during a precarious recovery.
“Rapid assessment shows that the livestock and food supply is at risk,” said UNICEF Deputy Representative in Tajikistan Ruth Leano. “This will affect a nutritional situation which is already lagging behind.”
|© UNICEF Tajikistan|
|Supplies being distributed to a Tajik boarding school for youths whose parents are unable to care for them. During the winter emergency, UNICEF delivered supplies to over 70 such institutions.|
The crisis began in January, when several cases of infant deaths due to hypothermia were recorded, maternity wards lost access to safe water and nearly all the country’s schools reported having no, or very limited, heat.
Since then, UNICEF has dispatched $350,000 worth of supplies (including blankets, hygiene kits, generators, jerry cans, soap and kerosene stoves) to help the population combat the cold. Priority recipients were boarding schools and orphanages housing 10,000 of the country’s most vulnerable children, as well as maternity wards and hospitals.
More emergency supplies are in position for distribution, in anticipation of severe flooding to come.
Safe water supplies
UNICEF’s first priority in addressing the emergency is securing safe water for the affected population.
“Because of reports of typhoid in the northern and in the southern parts of the country, UNICEF is stepping up actions to provide safe water supplies,” said Ms. Leano.
In urban areas, an awareness campaign in under way to warn people about the dangers of contaminated water. In one city alone in the Khatlon Region, half of all water samples showed bacterial contamination.
Necessary repairs to urban water systems will take quite some time. Meanwhile, UNICEF is providing water trucking.
UNICEF launched a Tajikistan emergency appeal for donations in February and has received about $1 million in response.
13 March 2008:
UNICEF Deputy Representative for Tajikistan Ruth Leano discusses the current situation in the country and the winter emergency’s impact on children.