|© AP Photo/Rob Griffith|
|A small girl sits in front of a house flattened by the tsunami while she plays with a toy doll in Gizo, the Solomon Islands.|
By Amy Bennett
NEW YORK, USA, 5 April 2007 – A strong undersea earthquake that struck the South Pacific this week left the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea directly in the path of a deadly tsunami, which swept through coastal villages killing at least 34 and leaving many more homeless.
More than 900 homes were destroyed and reports tell of entire villages being washed away. Aerial surveillance revealed flattened homes and people wandering along the coast. Roads were clogged with debris and boats that had been hurled ashore.
UNICEF and its partners responded within hours of the 8.1 earthquake and tsunami with pre-positioned emergency medical supplies for up to 10,000 people.
UNICEF is working to distribute medical kits including emergency drugs, to provide immunisation against measles for children aged six to 59 months, as well as Vitamin A supplementation. Water tanks and food sources have been destroyed so meeting the basic needs of many of the displaced will be a challenge.
With some 5,500 people displaced, families will be vulnerable to hunger and the spread of disease. Lack of access to safe water is a serious concern. Standing water is an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes and malaria is endemic in the area.
In collaboration with partners and the authorities, UNICEF will assess the damage to water and sanitation infrastructure and coordinate the distribution of water purification tablets, jerry cans and water tanks, and hygiene kits as well as the establishment of latrines and water points as necessary.
Aid workers in some areas have pointed out that relief efforts are lacking in resources while the risks to health and human life are mounting.
In any disaster, it is children who suffer most. Of the estimated 50,000 people affected by this crisis, approximately nearly 30,000 are children, and 15,000 are under the age of five. Vulnerable to hunger, disease and trauma, children and women in the affected areas require urgent life-saving assistance to survive.
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