Flash flooding displaces 1600 families in Belize
Stann Creek District, Belize , 9 June, 2008 — On 31 May Tropical Storm Arthur made land fall over Belize. More than 30 houses were completely destroyed and more than 300 others badly damaged by the rampaging waters. It is estimated that 8,000 people countrywide have been affected. These include approximately 3,800 children and 2,000 women. Of the severely affected population, thousands remain displaced as a result of direct loss of their homes and extensive flood damages, 500 of whom are still in shelters with the remainder taken in by family and friends. Arthur claimed five lives, (three of whom were children) and three people continue to be missing.
“Children account for approximately one-half of the displaced population of which 10 per cent are breastfeeding infants,” said Rana Flowers, UNICEF representative in Belize. “UNICEF is working in close collaboration with its sister UN agencies. Joining the government assessment teams we distributed some 1,350 water bags to offset urgent needs of villages for drinking water as well as oral rehydration salts. Special nutritious food parcels are going out to pregnant women, lactating women, and small children; and we are distributing 5 units of “School in a Box”, which will provide 400 affected primary school students with basic school supplies, two recreation kits to be used in conjunction with trauma counseling; as well as some cleaning and household products to help people get back into their homes.”
Already facing food shortages, loses to agriculture are also being estimated with many crops badly affected. The Government has released an initial damage assessment report, which calculates current damage costs in the vicinity of $70 million. This is a severe blow to a country which is heavily indebted and where 40 per cent of the population lives in poverty.
Hygiene and Sanitation a concern
Of special concern in this emergency has been the sudden deterioration of the hygiene and sanitation situation in the flooded areas. Raw sewerage is mixed with standing water; solid and human waste as well as dead animals are widely observed in areas where the population is in direct contact with stagnant water.
“Children are already showing signs of rashes and skin irritation from walking in flood waters,” said Rana Flowers. “The lack of safe drinking water and the risk of contamination within that polluted environment constitute the main threat to the health of the population especially for infants and young children who are most at risk of water born diseases.”
Many of those affected by the storm, particularly children, are experiencing trauma. As they deal with their fears they are also struggling with the disruption to their daily lives, the loss of all their household items, equipment, personal belongings and the physical damage to their homes. The fact that many people now live in congested settings is a further source of stress and if not addressed immediately may contribute to violence and abuse, especially against women and children who constitute almost 75 per cent of the affected population.
One 11 classroom school has been destroyed by the rampaging waters and two others smaller schools have lost all their equipment and supplies, including books, computers, etc. The vocational training school in this area also suffered considerable water damage and is now unusable. School buildings have also been doubling as hurricane shelters and a number of families remain in shelters resulting in the continued disruption of classes in the affected areas. Immediate, long-term support is urgently needed to re-establish educational services for over 500 children at the primary level.
For further information
Anita Zetina, Programme Coordinator, Phone: 501 223 3864; Cell: 502 610 5054; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
UNICEF works in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.